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Joe Christy &. JeffEthell
Joe Christy &. JeffEthell
Joe Christy &. JeffEthell

Joe Christy &. JeffEthell

Acknowledgements A work of this kind is hardly po ible E pecially, it is dedicated
Acknowledgements A work of this kind is hardly po ible E pecially, it is dedicated
Acknowledgements A work of this kind is hardly po ible E pecially, it is dedicated
Acknowledgements A work of this kind is hardly po ible E pecially, it is dedicated
Acknowledgements A work of this kind is hardly po ible E pecially, it is dedicated
Acknowledgements A work of this kind is hardly po ible E pecially, it is dedicated

Acknowledgements

A work of this kind is hardly po ible

E pecially,

it

is

dedicated

to

the

ex-

without the aid of a great many people. The authors cannot adequately thank all tho e who helped, but we can dedicate thi book to

Lightning commanders and pilot who contributed: Oliver B. Taylor, John Tilley, o ug Canning, Hank Schneider, Carroll

them.

 

'Andy' Ander on, Jack Lenox, Lee Carr,

 

So, we tru t that you will approve of the

Sidney Inglet, Sterling Winn, Warren

use

we made of your help, Ginny Fincik, and

Campbell, George Laven, Art Beimdiek, Bill

Maj Shirley Bach of the USAF 1361st Photo

Hoelle, Frank Barnecott, corgc

Squadron; and Wayne Pryor at Lockheed,

Fleckenstein, Jack Curti, Downey linch,

James

 

Knott

of

the

Allison

Division

of

Guy Watson, Norm Jackson, Frank Lawson,

General Motors, and General Ben Kel ey.

Jack Fehrenbach, Tom Jone, Dick Burn,

This book i also dedicated to 0 amu Tagaya who unearthed Japanese records, and Arno Abendroth who delved into Luftwaffe

Revis Sirmon,. Ben Mason, Ray Toliver, Robbie Robert on, Jules Hymel, Frank Shearin, Ross Humer, Richard Bracey, Hugh

files; to Bruce Hoy

of the Air Museum,

Bozarth, Jack Goebel, Carroll Knott, Harry

Papua, New Guinea; our fellow researchers

Brown, Don De sert, Nick Zinni, Jack Jone

in

Australia, T. R. Bennett and Frank

Bob Margison, Carl Gardner, Sherrill Huff,

F.

Smith; and to Dennis Glenn Cooper, Ira

Bill Caughlin, Franci Pope, Billy Broadfoot,

Latour, Wayne Sneddon, Ralph P. Willet,

John Stege, Erv Ethell, J. B. Wood on,

and

William Carter.

 

George O. Doherty, Robert H. French,

 

It

is

also

for

Carl

Bong,

brother

of

Noah Ray Tipton, James E. Kunkle, Fredric

America's Ace of Aces; authors Kenn

Arnold, D. A. Suddeth, Bob Woodard, and

C. Rust, Roger A. Freeman who opened his extensive P-38 file to u , and the generous Edward Jablon ki, along with Mitch Mayborn, John Stanaway, Merle Olmsted,

Royal Frey. Again, our sincere thanks

T. R. Bennett, and Glenn Bavou ett. And for

Ken Sumney and Emery J. Vrana.

Joe Christy and Jeff Ethell

Ken Sumney and Emery J. Vrana. Joe Christy and Jeff Ethell Copyright under the Berne Convention

Copyright under the Berne Convention

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any from without the permis ion of Charle cribner's Sons.

De ign by Anthony Wirkus L lAD

PRINTED

I

THE U.S.A.

Sons. De ign by Anthony Wirkus L lAD PRINTED I THE U.S.A. Contents Prelude: The Company
Sons. De ign by Anthony Wirkus L lAD PRINTED I THE U.S.A. Contents Prelude: The Company

Contents

Prelude: The Company P-38 Development

12

8

The Aleutian

and North Atlantic Ferry

28

North Africa

46

South- West Pacific 1942-1943 64

Sicily and Italy

Europe 100 Far Ea t Victory 1944-1945

P-38 Production

82

122

142

The following was originally printed in the us Army paper, tars and Stripes in 1943, and was written by a B-17 gunner in North Africa. It was forwarded by ex-Liberator pilot, Fred Bowen, Canoga Park, California.

Oh, Hedy Lamarr is a beautiful gal And Madeline Carroll is, too; But you'll find, if you query, a different theory Amongst any bomber crew. For the loveliest thing of which one could sing. (This side of the Heavenly Gates)

the

is

no Hollywood set, But an escort of P-38s

blonde

or

brunette

of

Sure, we're braver than hell; on the ground all is swell- In the air it's a different story. We sweat out our track through the

fighters andflak; We're willing to split up the glory.

Well,

they

wouldn't

reject

us,

so

Heaven protect us And, until all this shooting abates, Give us the courage to fight 'em - and

one other small item - An escort of P-38s.

Prelude:The Company In February 1937 when me us Army Air Corps asked America's struggling aircraft
Prelude:The Company
In February 1937 when me us Army Air
Corps asked America's struggling aircraft
industry to submit design proposals for a new
'interceptor', Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
was a small company. Its cash on hand was
approximately equal to one month's
operating expenses; and its sole product, the
twin-engined Electra, aimed at the feeder
airline market, could claim a production run
of Ie s than 80 machine during the preceding
three year.
Nevertheless, Lockheed made a bold
response to the Air Corps' request, submitting
drawings of an airplane 0 advanced that, if
built, it would demand answers to
engineering and aerodynamic questions for
which no answer yet exi ted. Lockheed
called the design 'Model 22'. The Air Corps
would call it the P-38 Lightning.
'Model 22' represented the 22nd design
proposed by Lockheed engineers since the
company was founded 11 years earlier by
Allen Lockheed, John Northrop, W. K. Jay
and Fred Keeler. Eight of those designs had
been produced for a total of277 airplanes, 196
of which were the wooden Lockheeds, such
as the famed Vega , Orions, and Altair .
In 1929 the company founders had sold out
to a Detroit group, which in turn allowed
Lockheed to lip into receivership a the
commercial aircraft market dwindled during
the Great Depres ion. Then, in 1932,
company a set were purcha ed for 40,000
by a group b ought together by investment
banker Robert E. Gross (who had previously
backed Lloyd Stearman in Wichita). The e
people originally included airline pioneer
Walter Varney, Lloyd Stearman (who had
old out to United Aircraft three years
earlier), Thomas F. Ryan III of Mid-
Continent Air Line, broker E. C. Walker,
and Mr and Mrs Cyril Chappellet.
Gros also brought in engineer Hall
Hibbard, who had begun his career with
Stearman in 1927, after earning his degree at
MIT. Hibbard was respon ible for
Above: Key executive
who
provided the foundation for.
Lockheed Aircraft Cotporanon
were photographed together on
26 July 1934. Left to right: Lloyd
tearman, Robert Gros , Cyril
Chappellet, and Hall Hibbard.
/ Locklzeed Califortlia Company
Left: Clarence L. 'Kelly' Johnson,
father of the P-38 (and many
advanced de ign to follow), was
discovered by Chief Engineer Hall
Hibbard at the Univer ity of
Michigan in 1933 when John on
wrote a report critical of the
Electra'
initial tail design.
/ Lockheed Califortlia Company
9

BeloUl: The 10-passenger Model 10 Electra, introduced in 1934, cruised at 1 Smph, and enjoyed immediate uccess with airline operators around the world.

. / Lockheed California Company

Right: Sketches of ix designs roughed out by Kelly Johnson for the 1937 Air Corp fighter competition. Number four wa selected.

/ Lockheed Califortlia Company

Below: Original patent drawing of the XP-38, filed 27 June 1939, Ii ts Hall L. Hibbard and Clarence L. John on a inventors.

/ Lockheed Aircraft Corporation

L. John on a inventors. / Lockheed Aircraft Corporation lt40. H L HI. A 0 AI

lt40.

H

L

HI.

A

0

AI Jrl.AII.

Lockheed Aircraft Corporation lt40. H L HI. A 0 AI Jrl.AII. n AI. 0 11 ••71.
Lockheed Aircraft Corporation lt40. H L HI. A 0 AI Jrl.AII. n AI. 0 11 ••71.

n

AI.

0

11 ••71.

lt40. H L HI. A 0 AI Jrl.AII. n AI. 0 11 ••71. I ~, r~

I

lt40. H L HI. A 0 AI Jrl.AII. n AI. 0 11 ••71. I ~, r~
lt40. H L HI. A 0 AI Jrl.AII. n AI. 0 11 ••71. I ~, r~

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. ,
.
,

developmen.t of the Model 10 Electra, which fir. t flew In February 1934, and it was HIbbard who first recognised the design genius of the man who would become

Lockheed's most famous engineer

Clarence

L.

'Kelly' Johnson.

'

J~hnson was doing graduate work at the UnIVersIty of Michigan when a scale model of the Electra was sent there for wind tunnel tests early in 1933. When John on wrote a report critical.of the Electra's tail as embly, HIbbard was Impressed. He promptly hired Johnson; and thus laid the cornerstone for Lockheed's well known 'Skunk Works'. Preliminary drawings of the Model 22 wer prepared in a matter of days starting w~thfreehand sketches by Kelly Joh~son.The AIr Corps wanted a craft for the 'tactical mission of interception and attack of hostile aircraf~at high altitudes.' Specifics included a tr~e aIr peed of 360mph at altitude, and chmb to 20,000ft within six minutes.

figures

imposed

T~ese reqUIrement that dictated the use of two engines, since no single engine of sufficient power then existed. Also inherent in the request. was the obvious necessity of emplOying Allison liquid-cooled engine. The AIr Corps had become convinced several years before that the high-hor epower liquid- cooled engIne offered more possibilities with turbo ~upe~chargingat high altitudes than did the bIg aIr-cooled radial. Therefore, the Ar~y had contributed development funds to Alltson (a small subsidiary of General Motors

a

power

rporation) for its V-1710 project as early as mber 1932; and when the Lockheed del
rporation) for its V-1710 project as early as
mber 1932; and when the Lockheed
del 22 drawings were completed in
bruary 1937, the Allison V-1710-C8 was
t a few weeks away from its first succe sful
t
at 1,000hp. It was America's only
,
tu
liquid-cooled engine near production
.
ockheed
Pre ident Robert Gross

r nally delivered the Model 22 drawing

Ohio, and, four month

I r, the Army indicated its approval of the

Wright

Field,

I r, the Army indicated its approval of the Wright Field, 'gn. Air Corp Contract 9974,

'gn. Air Corp Contract 9974, dated June 1937, authorised construction of one

designated XP-38,

lane.

It

would

be

J a signed Air Corp erial number 57. onstruction of the XP-38 did not begin
J
a signed
Air
Corp
erial number
57.
onstruction of the XP-38 did not begin
til
13 months later, and delivery to the Air
rp was made on New Year' Day 1939.
I
sembled, it wa loaded on three trucks,
ncealed by canvas, and taken from the
kheed plant at Burbank to March Field,
r Riverside, California.
eanwhile, events had conspired to place
heed in a more favourable financial
Irion. The Electra had been caled-up to a
place midwing transport for which the
n
Air Line Company (Oai Nippon)
ed
a timely order. It was timely because
craft were coming down the production
when a British purchasing commission
,ved in the US in April 1938, in search of
lane
to
belatedly
bolster
Britain'
nee in the face of Adolf Hitler's

mounting aggressions. A Cyril Chappellet later told it, 'If we hadn't had this Qapane e) business, our factory would have been empty and the British would hardly have dared to place contracts with a concern that was not in production.' Although Lockheed had but five days' notice to prepare for the British visit, a combination of long hours and frantic effort during that time produced a full-scale wooden mock-up of a Model 14 converted to

a medium reconnaissance bomber. The

British liked it; and the Air Ministry soon approved an order for 250 such machines, which they designated the Hudson, at a total cost of 25million. It wa the largest single order ever received by any US aircraft builder. It allowed Lockheed to market

4.25million in stock, and begin an expansion programme that saw the company grow from 2,500 employees in January 1939, when the XP-38 was delivered, to 50,000 workers in January 1941, when the first YP-38 service

test machine was delivered.

It would be yet another year before P-38 production reached 150 units per month; and although the Lightning entered combat quite early, F-4 versions went to Australia in April

1942 and P-38E models were ent to the Aleutians in June of that year, still another year would pass before this unique and deadly craft could honestly be called 'combat ready'. But that didn't matter. The enemy was upon us, and we were obliged to ftght with what we had.

Left: Final assembly of the XP-38 at Burbank. Lockheed security was tight and photos forbidden, which explains poor qualiry of this sneak shot by Lt Ben Kelsey. / Ben Kelsey

11

PJ8 Development

PJ8 Development II I I t braking power. I went into a I hut dtdn't damage

II I I t braking power. I went into a I hut dtdn't damage the airplane. u d a hand braking system finally, put together from a cylinder taken orthrop A-17, and an extra oil tank. The idea behind the extra

'I landed without using the flaps, and when we made an inspection we found that three of the four aluminium flap-control link rods had broken, allowing the flaps to run out to the end of their travel and whip up over the trailing edge. These were replaced with teel link rods, which solved that problem. 'Later, we found that this flap arrangement was ubject to buffeting in the take-off speed range at the half-flap setting, and also at the full-flap etting during landing approach at minimum peed. We soon discovered that this resulted from insufficient tolerance at the flaps' leading edge which was pinching-off the airflow. Kelly Johnson cut holes in the kin of the well the flaps went into and solved this on the YP models that followed. But, meanwhile, it meant we had to cut the engines to get the flap down prior to landing. It was a bad way of doing things, but did allow us to go forward with the ini tial tests. 'The e tests, during the next couple of weeks, which totalled about five hours' flying time, did e tablish that the plane handled well, and that its performance would easily fall within the parameters we had calculated. We had only minor problems. There was no trouble with the control; rigging wa excellent, and the engines performed well, except for some concern that the early turbo supercharger systems would not produce enough carburettor heat at low rpm to combat carburettor ice under some condition.

w to allow the pilot to pump more oil the y tern after he ran
w
to allow the pilot to pump more oil
the
y tern after he ran out of brake.
nabled me to keep the pressure up, but
u cd brakes, they
would be gone after
) normal landing. Therefore, the
Nine days after the XP-38 arrived at March
Fi~ld, it was ready to fly; in the quiet, hazy
chtll of a Southern California winter
morning, the man who would fly it tood for
a time, silently looking at this ominously-
beautiful craft. Lt Benjamin S. Kelsey was
not a talkative man, but hi thought would
not be difficult to gue s. The XP-38
repre ented a quantum advance in fighter
aircraft design, and it urely po sessed ecrets,
perhap dangerous secrets.
Kel ey, however, was an experienced and
highly proficient pilot. He had received his
commission in the US Army Air Corps 10
years before (promotion in rank wa
It was indeed big for a fighter'" airplane. Its
wings panned 52ft, and its weight exceeded
15,OOOlb. Its Allison V-1710-C9 engines,
I u technique with this prototype
ft would
be to land it without wheel
l
r
V-171D--ll and -15 Air Corps designations,
were rated at 1,090hp at 13,200ft. The left one
kc.
fhi called for dragging-in low, in landing
mfiguration, and using ju t enough power
rotated cl.ockwi e. (a
viewed from the rear),
I
and the right engine coumer-clockwise, thus
countering the effects of torque and the
piralling propeller wa h.
Now, General (retired) Ben S. Kelsey
picks up the story and recalls for us the
significant even in the XP-3 ' short life:
hold the plane lightly above tall. Then,
hop power as soon as the runway lid under
h . nose. Thi
is what led to loss of
the plane
tcr at Mitchel Field; I'll return to that in a
oment.
• n the first test flight, which was delayed
agonisingly slow in the US Army during the
twenties and thirties), and his record was such
that
it
had earned
him
the job of XP-38
project officer.
'During the taxi tests, everything seemed to
work well except the wheel brakes. We
didn't have an airplane then that landed as
fast as the XP-38, and of cour e it wa
necessary to establish that its brake were
adquate. On a high-speed taxi run, I ran out
of runway after the wheels expanded with
.
Th<:
twin
Allisons
were
grumbling
unpatJ_ently,
and
at
last
Kelsey
climbed
Below: Boldly designed, the XP-38
reached beyond the knowledge of
aboard. The XP-38's cockpit was a familiar
place, because he had spent countless hours
there during construction and assembly of the
·The term 'interceptor', along with the manner in
whIch XP-38 ~pecification were originally drawn,
were largely dictated by the need to present it as a
purely defen I.ve weapon; the only kind the US
Congres was lIkely to approve or pay for at the time.
mtil 27 January because of the braking
r blem, I had a Ford Trimotor a a chase
pI ne, which may help put this in per pective
tllnewi e. Just after I lifted the wheel, the
plane developed a very evere flutter, wing
Hutter. It wasn't mild; the amplitude of the
tlutter at the tip was of the order of two or
hree feet. There wasn't enough runway left
t land on and, looking at the wing and
wondering what to do, I saw a piece of the
flap bouncing up, 0 I retracted the flaps;
ockheed you ee, had aid to use half-flaps
or take-off. As the Fowler flaps came back
mto the wing, the flutter stopped.
Below: The XP-3 wa powered
with Alii on V-171D-11/15 (C-9)
engines rated at 1,000hp each at
13,200ft. It was easily capable of
400mph above 15,OOOft. It was first
the best aerodynamicist . At right is
Rown 9 January 1939,
with Lt
a Douglas B-1
Bolo b
mber.
Benjamin . Kelsey at the contr Is.
I Lockheed Aircr~(r CompallY
big fighter.
I Lockheed Aircraft Corporatioll
13

BATH

ruB

FITTINGS

FLAP PUSH-PULL TUBE INTERCOOLER , SUPERCHARGER TO ATTACHM PINS INTERCOOLER TO MOTOR MOUNT CARBURETOR DUCT
FLAP
PUSH-PULL
TUBE
INTERCOOLER
,
SUPERCHARGER
TO
ATTACHM
PINS
INTERCOOLER
TO
MOTOR
MOUNT
CARBURETOR
DUCT
ATTACHMENT
ATTACHMENT
BOLTS
BATHTUB
FITTING
ATTACHMENT

Above: Supercharger inter-eooler formed part of the wings'leading

edges in early P-3

continuing source of trouble.

and were a

14

'Now, there has been a lot of comment about us losing the XP-38 at Mitchel Field after a transcontinental flight; but the point was that General Arnold, Chief of Air Corps, was being very hard pressed in Washington about such things as record-breaking German airplane, and the new British Spitfire Since it was apparent that, when we delivered the XP-38 from March to Wright Field in Ohio, we'd be flying it at it normal cruising speed, substantially the same speed as Howard Hughes' cross-country record in a

specially designed racer, we fel t that this would give General Arnold some impressive figures to use in his appropriations battle with the Congress 'I was ordered to deliver the plane to

Wright Field on 11 February 1939

I

strictly a delivery flight at standard cruise

landed at Amarillo 2hr 48min after leaving March Field. Another 2hr 45min put me down at Wright Field. 'When I climbed from the plane at Wright Field, there was a discussion concerning the time I had made, and it wa noted that, with the time on the ground at both Amarillo and Dayton, there was no possibility of bettering

it wa

Hughe 's record. But in terms of flying time, we could do considerably better because his

a

question of whether we wanted to go to Mitchel and back, or call it a day with the planned delivery. 'Then, in hi ort of brusque way, General Arnold aid, "Go ahead, Kel ey. Take it." 'I averaged 360mph true air speed, and it was clear to me that the XP-38 would easily do 400mph if pressed. My flying time between March and Mitchel Fields was 7hr

2min.

'Descending into Mitchel, I think I probably picked up carburettor ice. This was a problem that had not been olved, and the early B-17s had the arne trouble. There simply wasn't enough heat available via the superchargers at low rpm to handle carburettor ice. I had to throttle way back to lower the flaps; and then, since I was faced with a landing without wheel brake, it wa necessary to "drag it in" under power at low speed. But the flap problem and the brake problem were just waiting for one additional problem, lack of power at a critical time, to produce disaster. As I attempted to ease-in

had been a non-stop flight. It was

ju t

SY TEM INSTALLATION SUPERCHARGER-TYP B-2 GENERAL ELECTRIC~ NO W-4868825 245437 ARMOR PLATE , (245436 R
SY
TEM
INSTALLATION
SUPERCHARGER-TYP
B-2
GENERAL ELECTRIC~
NO
W-4868825
245437
ARMOR
PLATE
,
(245436
R H)
OIL TANK VENT LINE
230101
SlAI
LESS
SlRUCTURE
CENTER SECTION -
REAR SHEAR BEAM
UPERCHARGER
REGULATOR - TYPE
A-7
-
TO
ENGINE
OIL
SYSTEM
AIR
OUTLET
r
iR
or
"'0
INTERCOOLER
223557
SCOOp
AIR
I
TAKE
,
engines failed to respond. Both
ntinued
to
idle
nicely;
but wouldn't
lerate.
I
was
low
and
low
on
final
roach. Without power, there was nothing
uld
do
to
add
a
single
inch
to
that
roach.
I struck the ground short of the
nway. The aircraft was a total loss; I was
Above: Turbo supercharger system,
beginning with the P-38J model ,
moved inter-eoolers beneath the
engines (increasing internal fuel by
llOgal). Thi improved
supercharger efficiency, but
ometimes allowed engine oil to
over-eool if not properly monitored
by the pilot.
mjured.
'Tom McRae and hi
crew from
Alli on
t
d
nine
possible
causes for
the engine'
llure
to
accelerate.
I
had
eliminated
c:
of
them
prior
to
the
crash, fuel
I ctor
switch,
boost
pumps,
etc,
and
four
remaining
possibilitie
were
Iminated
by
re-design
of
the
fuel
and
rburettor
system
on
the
follow-on YP
dels
'The next day,
I was in Wa hington to
plain
why
I'd busted our new airplane.
'And within 60 days, that's 60 days mind
you, Lockheed had a contract for service-test
quantities of the YP-38. There's no way in
the world that Lockheed could have received
such a contract that soon, had the XP-38
remained in existence, because then it would
have been necessary to validate all it
performance e timates, write-in a lot of
specific, and probably wait while it was
returned to the factory for modifications.
Therefore, we significantly cut time between
the X model and the Y models as a result of
losing the first one. The same thing happened
when we lost the first B-17 at Wright Field.
It was tragic; but not having the prototype to
nit-pick for a contract, which you must do,
you simply go ahead with a design that has
already demonstrated certain basic things
before its loss.'
I neral Arnold Ii tened to my account, then
k me around with him to the Secretary of
ar, and to the Bureau of the Budget; and I
ue s
we
went to four or five top level
pie. In each case, the General would ax
) me, "Kel ey, tell him about that new '38. '
I'd tell each how fast it was, how nicely it
h ndled, and so on.
The order for 13 service-test YP-38s was Air
Corps Contract 12523, dated 27 April 1939.
However, the first YP-38 did not fly until
16 September 1940, and the last one was not
delivered until eight months after that.
During those critical 25 months, the 'course
of human events' was altered for generations
15

Above: XP-38 is refuelled at Wright Field pending decision by General Arnold as to the feasibility of extending Kelsey's cross-country dash to Mitchel Field, New York.

Right: General Henry H. 'Hap' Arnold, Chief of Air Corps, orders Lt Kelsey to continue flight to

Mitchel Field. I &n Kelsey

16

/

me. Still, another nine months would before Lockheed achieved anythin:; nbling mass production of the P-38. I production for 1941 would amount to units (exclusive of the YPs), none of I h were fit for combat. Meanwhile, \' r te orders piled up. Britain ordered 667 in March 1940; and the US Army Air rp • contracted for 673 five months later. lthough we may tend to fault Lockheed taking so long to get the P-38 into ningful production, any of us who are enough to recall tho e fearful times, the II u ions, the shortages, the frustrating ncy to do a thousand things at once to f111 1 U and pressing needs, will be able to put I, and other 'failures' into proper r pective. Attempting to arm ourselves and nd our freedom, we demanded uction miracles of our often poorly nded industries to make up for 20 years of mplacency, incompetency, and wishful mking on the part of our leaders.

he US Army Air Corps became the US Army Air ree on 20 June 1941.

Lockheed, as the rest of the US, British, and Common wealth industry, did the best it could with what it had when there wasn't eno~ghof anything, from metal to money to manpower, to go around; and did so according to assigned priorities. In addition to P-38s, Lockheed was building Venturas, Hudsons, and Boeing B-17s in large numbers. Meanwhile, the financing of plant expansion programmes in America had to depend upon private money sources until the US Congress at last enacted the Lend - Lease Bill (HR 1776) on 11 March

1941.

There were other factors that slowed P-38 development and production. The YP-38's internal structure was practically designed from scratch, because the XP-38 had been handbuilt by the 'cut and fit' method, and its airframe did not lend itself to efficient mass production techniques. The Army also demanded that the YP models be at least 1,SOOlb lighter than the experimental model.

Finally, there were some important aerodynamic lessons to be learned, and a number of detail improvements to be made before the P-38's true potential could be

Be!OlV: Fir t YP-38 made its Jl1aiden

flight 16

Lockheed Chief Pilot Marshall Headle at the control. Counter- rotating props rurned olltwards. Propeller cuffs were larer removed. Note lack of wing-fuselage fillet.

eptember 1940, with

I Lockheed Aircraft Corporation

Righr: The YP-38 was fmed with Allison V-1710-27/29 (F-2) engine rated at l,lS0hp. Elevator rna
Righr: The YP-38 was fmed with
Allison V-1710-27/29 (F-2) engine
rated at l,lS0hp. Elevator rna s
LeJr: The Allison V-171O F-serie
engine which powered the YP-3 s
and all production models of the
Lightning wa rated at l,lSOhp in
the YP ; l,32Shp In the P-38s, and
was up to l,425hp (l,600hp war
balance
were added later as a
emer.gency)
in the P-38J models.
solution for tail buffeting at high
speed. Wing fillets olved that, but
I
All,son Division, GM
the mass balance remained on all
sub equent P-38s.
Below: Dr
anfi rd A. Moss
I
A~nerica's upercharger pio~eer
Lockheed AircraJr Corporarion
(tight), with Brig-GenJame H
o
olittle and the General Electric
Below: A YP-38 emerges from a
cocoon of Hudson at the Lockheed
factory into an early spring
morning in 1941.
Type B turbo supercharger which
was fitted to engines in the
BOO-1,400hp range.
I
General Elecrric Company
I
Lockheed California COInpatlY
tapped. It all took rime, and time was the
most precious commodity of all.
The first YP-38 completed, In 39-689, was
retained at the factory, although its USAAF
record card reveals that it was flown but 23
hours during it 14 month of existence.
Clearly, Lockheed left much of the YP-38
test flying to the Army pilots. Delivery of the
remaining dozen YP-38s to the Army was
completed in May 1941; and it was then that
the spectre of compressibility first showed
iteslf.
Major Signa A. Gilkie experienced it fir t.
He took YP-38 sin 39-694 well above
3O,00Oft then entered a dive. A the airspeed
needle swung past 320mph, ornewhere
around Soomph true air speed at that altitude,
the airplane's tail began to buffet everely.
Then, as the dive continued, the craft became
progre sively no e-heavy, increa ing its dive
angle to near vertical, while the control yoke
oscillated rimy and defied Gilkie's utmost
efforts to pull it back and effect recovery.
Unwilling to bailout and 10 e the plane to
thi strange and frightening force, the major
tried the only mall remedy left to him. He
cranked-in 'no e-up' elevator trim.
At flfSt, the elevator trim tab seemed
ineffective; but a the plane entered denser air
below 18,000ft, the no e began to swing
upward. Full control quickly returned, and
seconds later, Major Gilkie found himself
straight and level at 7,000ft.
He
had
also
found
the two major
aerodynamic problems that represented the
price Lockheed must pay for pioneering with
18

a high-speed high-altitude fighter. He had encountered in quick succession, a dangerous tail buffeting, followed by aerodynamic compressibility. It took a while to figure out that the two problems were not related. Most Lockheed engineers believed that there was but one problem, an improperly balanced tail. This resulted in the installation of external mass balance weights on the elevator (which remained on all subsequent P-38s, although Kelly Johnson has always maintained that they were useless). Other 'fixes' were applied, including trengthening of the horizontal stabili er and increa ed tension of the elevator control cables; but the cause of the tail flutter wa i olated a month later by wina tunnel te ts at Cal Tech which showed that there had been nothing wrong with the tail in the first place. Under certain extreme conditions, it was simply being buffeted by a

Below: Instrument panel of the

P-38G-15.

strongly turbulent airflow created at the sharp junctures where wing and fu elage were joined. About 40 wing fillet hapes were tried until one was found that properly smoothed- out. the airflow over the tail in all flight regimes. Although the tail flutter problem was thus rather quickly eliminated, the little understood phenomenon of com pre sibility remained. Late that ummer, flying the first YP-38, Lockheed test pilots Jimmy Mattern, Ralph Virden and Milo Burcham cautiou ly began nibbling at high-altitude dives, limiting themselve to an indicated air speed of 295mph above 30,OOOft. Then, on 4 November, Virden took this airplane aloft for a serie of dives, working upward from 15,OOOft. The 'number one' YP-38, which had by then accumulated slightly over 23 hours' flight time, had been fitted with new spring loaded servo tabs on the elevator's

Abo~e:The 1 t Pursuit Group receIved the fir t production P-38s. in mid-1941. Only 29 of the first model were built. I U AF

Left: Built concurrently with first pr~duction P-38s. though not deltvered to the Air Corp until a year later. was the pressurised

XP-38A

It was not developed.

I Lockheed Califomia Compally

Below left: The Lockheed XP-49 was another pressuri ed version of the P-38, powered with ~xperimentalContinental XIV-1430 Inverted engine ofl.350hp. It was Lockheed Model 522; In 40-3055.

I Mitch Maybom

Above: One of 36 P-38Ds built takes-off from Burbank, September 1941. I American Aviation Historical
Above: One of 36 P-38Ds built takes-off from Burbank, September 1941. I American Aviation Historical

Above: One of 36 P-38Ds built takes-off from Burbank, September

1941.

I American Aviation Historical

ociery

Right: The P-3 E contained many detail change, plu a sWitch to the 20mm cannon in place of a 37mm; Curtis electric prop, new internal operating sy terns, and ~o e-wheel retract-arm moved behmd nose-

wheel

the Aleutian and, as F-4s, in New

Guinea.

I American Aviatioll Hisrorical Sociery

trut.

orne Es saw combat in

Ballom right: ·Another of the original 29 production machine, sin 40-744, had superchargers removed and an extra cockpit installedm port bo m as an experimental tramer. I U AF

22

installedm port bo m as an experimental tramer. I U AF 22 ling edge (company sources

ling edge (company sources today don't ree as to whether there was one or two I h tabs) which, acting opposite to elevator flection when the control yoke force hed 30lbs would substantially add to the It t' muscle in elevator control: in other rd, elevator boost aerodynamically

III uced.

Virden successfully completed the lower Ititude dives, reaching true air speeds of up

I 535mph; but it i not known just how high h went to begin his final dive. What is

n wn is that the new tabs apparently rked so well that Virden pulled the tail ofT the airplane at about 3,OOOft in a dive

r overy, and died in the ensuing crash. The los of this airplane and pilot tabli hed little, except that the P-38 wasn't ing to be 'muscled out' of its mpressibility problem. Meanwhile, a total of 68 planes had been uilt, not counting the XP and YP models:

P-38s, 36 P-38D, and three P-38E. 1 elivery of the production models had begun

In June and by the end of October 1941,

elivery of the P-38E had tarted. Only 210 P-38Es were built during the n xt five month, then the P-38F entered production in April 1942. But it was not until P-38Gs were coming ofT the production line

in October 1942, that a P-38 scale model was at last accepted for high-speed wind tunnel tests at NACA's Ames Laboratory. This was,

perhaps, the ingle most significant lapse in P-

38 development. Since Maj Gilkie's dive had

first revealed the seriousness of the problem,

17 irretrievable months had slipped by.

However, once the engineers could watch the shock waves form on the P-38 wing at Mach .67, giving them visible evidence of its effect on the airplane, the problem was at least positively defined, if not solved. They discovered that air pas ing over the curved parts of the model increased in velocity by as much as 40 per cent. This meant that the airflow over the wing (this particular wing) could reach the speed of ound when the airplane's true air speed was but 67 per cent of the speed of sound; and the shock wave which then followed rendered the airplane uncontrollable. Actually, several things could be done to rai e the P-38s critical Mach number (the Spitfire hit compressibility at Mach .83, primarily because of its very thin wing). A new wing would do it; and a stretched pilot's nacelle would also help. But at the end of 1942, with production of the P-38G at last approaching 150 units per month, and the USAAF desperate for more, major design

Below: Lockheed' wordfish' wa a

greatly modified P-38E, sin 41-2048. used for in-Right research

oflaminar-Row airfoil

and the

tudy of boundary layer air control.

I Mitch Mayborn

ockhccd XP-5K (;/";11

haJ

p.1I1 of7uft. allJ \\ as

I with a pm of ~.lH)()hp

V '420 engines (an 'I'H'd Cll~lI1l'rt'\ulllng fTom

'1' of I"" V-lilt"], and

t \\ a plalllled;l 1"'0

(, lItrlllled rune! , L'al h

I ralt 0(, Sill gUll , plll\

llJl C,lIl1l0ll\ III !he 11<"<'- It

(IJulle IlJ44.

f,'yh,,,"

rh '1'-~HII-5' \\'l'rL' !h, tif\!

the h.ll .Illtkd to till'

Ilr. tgllLL

I

,

11·

rh '1'-~HII-5' \\'l'rL' !h, tif\! the h.ll .Illtkd to till' Ilr. tgllLL I , 11·
rh '1'-~HII-5' \\'l'rL' !h, tif\! the h.ll .Illtkd to till' Ilr. tgllLL I , 11·

Below: P-38E outdoor production line at Lockheed on 10 October

1941. I Lockheed Califortlia Company

change, with the attendant re-tooling,

testing, etc,

were

out

of the question.

America wa

fighting for her life, and no

time remained to exploit this hard won knowledge with the P-38. Production wa all-important. This urgent need, however, did not preclude a modification of another kind. If they couldn't push back compressibility, Lockheed engineers decided, they could at least stay out of it. Therefore, a dive brake was devised; one that could be 'bolted on' to the airframe without slowing production. This modification took the form of a pair of accordian-type flaps attached to the main wing beam (spar), and positioned just beyond each engine boom, 30 per cent of the chord behind the wing's leading edge. When not in use these flaps retracted flush into the bottom of the wing. They were electrically activated by means of a trigger on the control wheel. The dive brake were effective. It was till possible to find compre sibility at dive angle

exceeding 60 degree from very high altitudes; but despite buffeting, and the

danger of exceeding the airplane's structural design limit, ontrol remained. Alth ugh dive brake were installed on a te t machine in late February 1943, and Ben Kel ey (by then a colonel) flew the craft and appr ved the devi e early in April, Lockheed w unable t inc rporate this important m dift ti n int P-3 a embly

line for an ther 14 m nth .

5,300 P-3

the ultimate t tal. In a taped intervi w,

us that the dive brak were hydraulicall

system failed n hi fin I div

B

that time,

had b

n built, m re than half of

c ntr
c
ntr

compres ibility, and pull d

airplane attemptin

r

r

.

K

I ery bailed

out, sustaining a br

k

n

nkl. The General

described in detail th h drauli y tern malfunction. There w, n eat ushion

involved as had been previou Iy rep rted. On

production aircraft,

electrically activated. The dive brake modification appeared on the last 210 J models, the P-38J-25 , produced

were

the

dive

brake

210 J models, the P-38J-25 , produced were the dive brake Ahove: The Hand J model

Ahove: The Hand J model Lightnings used the ame engines, V-1710-89191 (Alli on F-15 series). Flat, bullet-proof winds reen appeared on the P-38J-l0 (ab vel.

I Lockheed Aircraft Corpora/ion

R(~/J(: Fact ry-fre h P-38J-15 during its production test Aight. A t tal of1,4ooJ-15s were built, and 350J-205 followed before the J-25 model at la t appeared with dive brakes and aileron bo st.

I &/"'ard jaiJIonski

~n June 1944. By that time, other important unprovements had accrued, hydraulic aileron boost, better cockpit heating, a flat, bullet- proof win.dscreen, manoeuvring flaps (a control which allowed a quick, eight-degree ~xten ion of the Fowler flaps), an adequate mter-cooler system, and improved engines with supercharging automatically controlled; that wa when one could say that the P-38 Lig~tning w~s ready to fulEI its long- awaIted promIse; that was when it could be accurately described as a long-legged, high- altitude combat aircraft of truly fearsome proportio~s, that gave up nothing to any enemy aIrcraft anywhere in any flight reg~me. The. potential had been there all the whl!e. Had It been exploited, say, two years earher, a reasonable hope, since in fact the P-38 required seven years to mature, this rugged and versatile fighter (with a bomb capacity equalling that of the B-25 Mitchell) may indeed have greatly altered the course of W.orld War II. However, there is ample eVIdence that the P-38 provided the means for a substantial altering of that conflict, as it was.

Above: The P-38F-1 appeared in

April 1942, and featured new pylon

rack

beneath the centre wing

ection designed to carry a ton of

external ordnance. Maximum

wa 395m ph at 25,OOOft with a combat weight of 15,900lb. ervice ceiling was 39,OOOft,

/ Mitch Mayborn

peed

Righr: A P-38F-5 with a Spitfire Mkn reveals difference in SIze. The 'Spit' pos e ed but forty per cent of the P-38 weight, but lacked the Lightning' great versatility.

/ Merle Olmsred Collecrion

&rtom righr: Recon photo reveal dozen Japanese 'Rufes' (Nakajima A6M2-N f10atplane fighter) in Ki ka Harbor. / U AF

a

We shall probably never know all the facts attendant to Britain's order for 667 P-38s, approved by the Air Ministry in March 1940. The first 143 of the e craft, designated Lightning Mkls, were 0 clearly unfit for combat that one wonders if Lockheed had to grit its corporate teeth and look the other way while building them. More to the point, is the question of why Britain should place such an order, because the Lightning I was without effective armour, had no superchargers, and its eariy model Allisons of 1,090hp rotated in the same direction. Thu robbed of its primary design function, that of high-altitude fighter, the big and relatively heavy Lightning could hardly promise performance advantage over aircraft the RAF already possessed. The balance of the order, for P-38F-13, -15, and G-15 models, seemed more plausible, although those machines were not scheduled for delivery until mid 1943. Therefore why, two months before France fell, and four months before the Battle of Britain, did the Air Ministry approve a large order (actually totalling more airplane than all the Spitfires and Hurricanes then possessed by Fighter Command) for an untested American fighter due for delivery up to three years later? Perhaps it was a prudent just-in-

case-we-need-it act. But it is at least possible that it represented a modicum of collusion between General Arnold and his friends in the Air Ministry. Suppo e that General Arnold, desperate to circumvent the myopic US Congress and get combat aircraft production moving in the US, had said to the proper British authorities, 'Look here, fellows' (or words to that effect), 'we've got a 2,OOOhp fighter of great potential, but the program is barely alive. So far, I've been able to get money for only 65 of them. Somehow, I've got to get a real production line going and develop this airplane; it could prove very important to both of us a bit further down the turnpike.

place a large

order for this craft immediately, that will set

the program moving. Then, I'll promise to take you off the hook when the airplanes are ready for delivery if you don't want them.' True, it is only a latter-day theory. But it could have happened that way. General Arnold cut a good many corners in an attempt to build US airpower, and we know that he employed a deception or two in his campaign to get the B-17. Whether or not the British order actually cut P-38 development time and allowed Lockheed to achieve mass production' sooner

Now, if you will step in and

Below: The 54th Fighter Squadron, equipped with P-38E , was ba ed at Adak in the Aleutian early in 1943.

/U AF

than would have otherwise been pos ible, is difficult to determine. On paper, at least,

than would have otherwise been pos ible, is difficult to determine. On paper, at least, the British order accelerated the P-38 programme by five months, because it was not until August 1940 that the USAAF at la t ordered in quantity, signing a contract for 673 machines. In ;:ny case, only a handful of Lightning

MkIs

British

pilots flew three of them in a test programme,

beginning in April 1942, but returned them to American hand as soon as they decently could, saying that the RAF would muddle along without the Lightning.

was

delivered

to

the

RAF.

The

Lightning

MkIs

still

in

America,

apparently 138 ot them, were accepted by the USAAF, ent to the Dalla Modification Centre for new engines, then went to Arizona as rainers. The P-38F-13 and -ISs, and P-38G-15s (Lightning MkII), 524 machine in all, were also accepted by the USAAF and went to us fighter groups. The name 'Lightning', be t wed upon the P-38s by the Briti h in March 1940, was adopted by Lockheed, and the Lightning it was ever after. Concurrent with production f the P-322s was the P-38E. The E model w fitted with Allison V-1710-27 and -29 engine of 1,150hp (sea level at 3,OOOrpm) which rotated outward from the pilot' n elle. It had improved radios, a low pre ure oxygen system, and a number of other detail improvements over the D model, and though it was not regarded as a combat-ready fighter, it did see action in the Aleutians, where the principal enemy was the weather.

in the Aleutians, where the principal enemy was the weather. Right: The face of the enemy;

Right: The face of the enemy; Japanese Naval airmen from film captured at Attu./ USAF

&Iow: Capt George Laven (right), and Lt Stanley Lang of the 54th F . Laven was one of two P-38 pilot to fly the first fighter strike against Kiska on 3 September 1942, and later fought in the SW Pacific.

/U AF

Far right, top: Capt Morgan Giffin briefs 54th FS pilot prior to a fighter sweep over the Aleutian.

/

AF

Far right, bottom: Lightning F-5s in

foreground have done their job and now stay at home while P-38s accompany Liberators on a raid to Attu. / U AF

in foreground have done their job and now stay at home while P-38s accompany Liberators on

32

Early in June 1942 the Japanese landed more than 3,000 soldiers on the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska in a diversionary thrust primarily designed to lure the weakened US Navy into a showdown battle in the North Pacific. Admiral Nimitz refused to take the bait, however, and instead dry- gulched the vastly superior Japanese main force north of Midway, so grievously damaging the Japanese Navy that it never recovered. However, the Japanese presence in the Aleutians posed a threat (albeit of unknown dimensions) to Alaska and the North American Continent. The enemy could not be allowed to remain there. Therefore, a squadron of P-38s was hastily put together to join the 11th and 18th Fighter Squadrons (FS)* of the 28th Composite Group which had been in Alaska since the preceding December, when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the United States into World War II. The 11th and 18th were equipped with P-40 and P-39s, neither of which possessed sufficient range to carry the fight to the Nipponese at the extreme end of the 1,200 mile Aleutian Archipelago. The P-40s had seen action when Japanese carrier-based aircraft attacked the US Naval

·In May 1942, all US pursuit groups were re-designated 'fighter groups'. and the pursuit squadrons became 'fighter squadrons.' Normally, three fighter squadrons comprised a fighter group.

34

three fighter squadrons comprised a fighter group. 34 ba e at Dutch Harbor. Flying from a
three fighter squadrons comprised a fighter group. 34 ba e at Dutch Harbor. Flying from a

ba e at Dutch Harbor. Flying from a primitive airstrip at Otter Point on Umnak Island, 80 miles west of Dutch Harbor in the Eastern Aleutians, the P-40 shot down two 'Nates' (Nakajima Ki-43, Type 97) in an air battle there during the Attu and Kiska landing on 7June. Throughout the ummer, however, the Japanese had appeared content to dig-in on Kiska, some 850 miles to the west of U mnak, and on Attu, 225 miles beyond Kiska, and forego further offen ive action. A fir t-hand account of P-38 operation in the Aleutians is provided to us by Col (ret) George Laven, now a sales and contract officer for McDonnell Douglas:

'I wa in the 54th FS, which was sent from McChord Field, Washington, to Anchorage, Alaska, in the ummer of 1942. The 54th had moved to Cold Bay, on the tip of the Alaskan Peninsula, when I arrived with two other P-38 pilots. 'Our fir t offensive mission came on 3 September, when Lt Victor E. Walton and I volunteered to hit Kiska from our trip on Umnak Island. On paper, it wasn't po ible, and four other P-38 pilot who also volunteered had to turn back due to lack of fuel. Our P-38Es had 230 gallons (US) of internal fuel, and a normal consumption of 59 gallon per hour at 75 per cent power and 25,000ft. But Walton and I extended our range by holding high manifold pressure with low rpm settings, a crui e-control method

later taught to US pilots In the Pacific by Charles Lindbergh. 'We also believed that we had invented skip-bombing with our P-38s, but were later told that P-40 pilots had employed this tactic months earlier in the Philippines. 'We went after Japanese shipping at ten feet. On that first mission, I chose as a target a 10,000-ton Japane e freighter in Kiska Harbor; but our bomb fuses were often bad in those days, and my bomb went right through the ship without exploding. Walton and I approached Kiska from the northwest, screened by the 1,200ft ridges along that coast, at 14.32hrs. I crossed under Walton as we dropped down to the harbour to shoot-up

a four engine Kawasaki Ki-97 flying boat,

and then banked sharply left again to strafe the anti-aircraft guns which were thick along the north rim of the harbour. I then cut across the mouth of the harbour and left the area, heading out to sea in a outheasterly direction. Walton made a 180-degree turn over the docks on the harbour's south rim, hit

a transport ship in the centre of the harbour,

and went out the way we came in. We had both 20mm and .50-calibre ammunition remaining, but felt that fuel was too critical to warrant more pas es. We made it back to

U mnak with a few gallons to spare.

'All but 10 of the original 31 P-38 pilots in the Aleutians were killed there, most of them lost to the weather. In one case, four of us were flying the wing of a B-17 to a strip we

Above: Lt Herbert Hasenfu

pair of tiger sharks into combat

over the

rode a

Aleutians. / Francis J. Pope

Top left: When it wa n't ice and fog, it was rain and fog in the

Aleutian. / Mitch Mayborn

Centre left: Lt Richard Bracey had 35 hours in P-38s when he went to the Aleutian, but logged 250 hour in the world's wor t flying weather. All but 10 of the original 31 pilots of the 54th FS were killed in the

Aleutians. / Richard Bracey

Bouo/tl left: The .50 calibre gun normaJl y carried 300 rounds of ammunition each; the 20mrn cannon was fed by a 15G-round drum. / U AF

35

36 had opened at Adak, about 375 miles west of Umnak. We were a very

36

had opened at Adak, about 375 miles west of Umnak. We were a very few feet off the water, and the fog was so bad that the number one man could not see numbers three and four of his formation. When we got to Adak, three and four were gone, they had hit a rock sticking out of the water. You can guess how close numbers one and two came to it. A number of P-38 pilots shot down in the water were alive when they hit; but we

almost never recovered one alive. The frigid water killed them within minutes.

were not

getting replacement aircraft, damaged but flyable P-38s were to fly back to the US for repairs or replacement. Four of us left Amchitka, where our people had built an airstrip only 75 miles from Kiska, and I was the only one who made it. We all got as far as Annette Island, but en route from there to Paine Field at Everett, Washington, we hit fog and two of our companions were never heard from again. The third got to Paine, but his hydraulic system was out, and by the time he got his wheels pumped down the fteld had socked-in. He landed long; skidded off the end of the runway. He survived, but the airplane didn't. I landed on Vancouver Island, which I found quite by chance. I then flew on to San Antonio where my plane was to be repaired; I had no flaps, having had them shot out. When my plane was fiXed, I returned to Anchorage alone, then down the island chain to Amchitka on the wing of a B-24. 'The P-38 was the only airplane for that place, and also for the Southwest Pacific, because of its twin engines over water. Having two fans instead of one made a world of difference. The machine I flew in the

'In

the

fall

of 1942, since we

Left: The enemy also suffered from the Aleutian weather. Reconnaissance photo shows four Aoatplanes blown ashore and damaged by high winds at Attu.

/U AF

Below: Capt Frank Shearin (left) and Lt John Geddes of the 54th FS with P-38H-5 at Adak, September

1943. / Col (ret) Frank

lJearin

Aleutian

Year

w

larer

1

had

wh

n

Air

Force

Ba e,

number .'

ri J

umb r

41-2076.

m

wn

F-100

that

 

I

commanded

George

had

the

same

last four

The American base on Adak, and later on Amchitka, allowed US pilots to strike the enemy as often as weather permitted. A maximum effort strike on Kiska on 14 September- 1942 consisted of 12 B-24 , 14 P-38s, and 14 P-39s. Two P-38 were I t when they collided over the target area. These were piloted by Lt Crowe and Maj r

Jackson,

the

squadron's

fir t

c mmandin

officer.

Lt-Col (ret) Richard Bracey, wh n w owns a lumber mill in Thomasville, eorgia, was another 54th pilot:

'I went directly from flying school to a P-38 training group at Paine Field in August 1942. 1 had 35 hours in P-38s when 1 was ent to the Aleutians that November. There, 1 logged about 250 hours, mostly in fog. 1tangled with "Rufe" type "Zeros" (Nakajima A6M2-N Type 2, Model 12 - fighter floatplane), weather, and flak 'The best thing 1 remember about the P-38 is that it brought me home single- engine three times. It had a low stalling speed, no t6rque, and five fixed guns straight ahead. 1 flew the P-51 and it

was

anytime.'

a

fine

airplane;

but

give me

a

'38

it was anytime.' a fine airplane; but give me a '38 In September 1942 the three

In September 1942 the three fighter squadrons in the Aleutians, 54th, 11th, and 18th, were formed into the 343rd Fighter Group of the 11th Air Force. At that time, RCAF fighter squadron in Alaska, No 14 and 111, flying P-40 Kittyhawks, returned to Canada. Throughout the winter and early spring (though it is hard to tell the difference in the Aleutians) the American fighters flew bombing and strafing missions to Attu and Kiska. Then on 11 May 1943 a US Navy task force put ashore on Attu the US Army's Seventh Division, and after fighting for nearly three weeks among the icy, fog- shrouded crags, the Seventh overwhelmed the 2,300 Japanese there, aided, as weather permitted, by the 11 th Air Force. Col (ret) Frank Shearin Jr, now executive vice lresident of the Happy Bear Corp, joine the 54th FS at Adak in December 1942, moving up to Amchitka when that strip was completed in March 1943:

'During the fighting on Attu, we tried to keep eight P-38s over the target during daylight hours. We carried one 500 or 1,0001b bomb, and one 165gal external fuel tank. On 24 May Group Commander Lt-Col Watt was shot down while attacking a formation of "Bettys" (Mitsubishi G4Ml, Type 1 twin-engined attack/bomber). Only three of a flight of25 "Bettys" returned home. John Gettt:s was also shot down, but was picked up uninjured by a Navy destroyer.

'We had two rules for dog-fighting the "Zeros" (Mitsubi hi A6Ml-8, Type 0, carrier- based fighter, Hamp/Zeke). Keep speed minimum of 300mph and always break hard- right and up. The Japanese fighters were over-powered for their airframes, and torque did not permit a tight, high-speed right turn. 'Speaking of performance, 1returned to the United States in September 1943, and while in the pilots' lounge at Santa Maria Air Base, California, 1 overheard three P-38 student pilots scorning this airplane. They were saying the P-38 would not operate above

25 ,Oooft , or if it would, their

would not take them. 1 found out their instructor's name and cleared a flight with the students. 'My briefing was short and to the point:

"Were going to take this four ship formation up and we will continue to climb until one of you say 'Uncle.' " With that we took off. At 42,80Oft indicating on the altimeter, 1 heard a garbled "uncle" being transmitted by a throat mike. 100 per cent oxygen under pressure made it difficult to speak at high altitude. The formation was climbing at 500ft per minute when the climb was terminated. That flight convinced them that the P-38 was a high- altitude aircraft. 'I later flew P-51s for about 250 hours. rate the P-38 as the best overall fighter.'

instructor

Two

American

months

after

Attu

troops

invaded

was

recaptured,

to

Kiska,

only

Below: The Japane e sent hundreds of incendiary devices across the North PacifiC by free balloon during World War II in an attempt to start forest fires in Western Canada and the US Northwest. P-38s hot down this one over the ocean. / USAF

38

Top: ki-equipped p- F and

P-3 ~-l (above) were tested in Alaska by Lt Randy Acord, but skis

were not ad

pted for general u e.

/ American Aviation His/oricol

ocie/y

Above: Mo t Lightning in the Aleutians were I st to weather- related accidents. These are salvaged P-38L-S at hemya late in the war.

/ AF

Left: Lightning F-SB-1 (P-38G-IO) at Meeks Field, Iceland, 9 Augu t

1943. Chalked n t

on prop blade

read: 'OillOqts, g

S3Sgal'

/ AF

at Meeks Field, Iceland, 9 Augu t 1943. Chalked n t on prop blade read: 'OillOqts,

)

) discover that the enemy had slipped away in the fog. moved During the rest of

discover that the enemy had slipped away in the fog.

moved

During the rest of that year, a total of 882 aircraft out of 950 which started, most of them flown by young Americans who had never seen an ocean before, arrived safely. These included 366 heavy bombers, 150 medium bombers, 183 transports, and 178 P-38 Lightnings.

The

Lightnings,

P-38Fs

and

P-38F-1s,

belonged to the 1st and 14th Fighter Groups, and were sheperded across, in flights of four, by B-17s of the 97th Bomb Group. On 27 June 194280 Lightnings of the 94th, 27th, and 71st FSs, 1st FG, left Bangor, Maine, following 20 B-17Es of the 341st BS, 97th BG. All but two of the five-plane flights (four fighters, one bomber) completed the crossing without remarkable incident. Those two were Tomcat Yellow Flight, consisting of the B-17E Dodo and three P-38s; and Tomcat Green Flightled by B-17E Big Stoop, also with three P-38s. One P-38 had aborted from each flight at Bluie West One with mechanical problems. The two drop-outs were fortunate, because the B-17s led the fighters into increasingly bad weather while BW-1 behind them at Narsasuak, Greenland became socked-in. Learning that their destination in Iceland was also closed, they tried BW-8 on Greenland's east coast only to fmd it, too, zero-zero.

Left: An operational loss. P-38F-5 sin 42-12595. 50th FS, Iceland. 3 February 1944. I USAF

Be/ow: P-38F-1s of the 27th FS, 1st FG, arrived in Iceland 6July 1942. continued to England 28 August. I USAF

In

October

1943

on

the

to

54th

FS

westward to the Island of Shemya to stand guard. The 11th and 18th, based at Adak, were to eventually receive P-38Ls in July

1945, and moved

time. Earlier, in the summer of 1942, at about the

time the

P-38s

England. British and Canadian pilots had been flying American-built multi-engined aircraft across the North Atlantic since 1939; but the ferrying of planes with lesser range demanued stepping-stone airstrips on Greenland and Iceland. A base on Iceland was prepared months before America was forced into the war. US Marines, supported by the P-40- equipped 33rd Pursuit Squadron of the 8th Pursuit Group, were ent there by President Roosevelt in July 1941 (The P-40s were flown off the deck of the Carrier Wasp). By mid-summer 1942, airstrips in Greenland, Bluie West One and Bluie West Eight, possessed radio navigational aids, and the build - up of US airpower in England began under the code name Operation

Shemya

at

that

other

to

54th FS arrived at Alaska,

flying

the

North

were

Atlantic

Bolero.

under the code name Operation Shemya at that other to 54th FS arrived at Alaska, flying

Right: 2-Lts Harry Stengle and Jame McNulty of the 50th FS hared a Ju88 over Iceland on 24 April 1943. / USAF

Below: During 1942, 178 Lightning were Rown to England via the North Atlantic ferry route, while 656 reached Britain by sea. / U AF

ferry route, while 656 reached Britain by sea. / U AF Finally, low on fuel, the

Finally, low on fuel, the two flights turned south to look for a place to land on the ice cap. With their choices limited, they were forced to accept a spot veined with creva e.

The first P-38 to go in lost its landing gear in

a wheels-down landing, so the remaining

Lightnings, and then the Fortresses, all landed

wheel-up. Not one of the 25 men in the eight aircraft was seriously injured. They were found within a couple of days by a B-24 Liberator piloted by LtJ. B. Long, and eventually rescued by dog sled. A recent note from a researcher in California informs that the airplanes are there today, in 'excellent condition.' The official USAAF report on the incident gives the location as 65° 20' N; 45° 20' W.

So, the 94th FS lost six of it airplanes, but no pilots, crossing the North Atlantic. The 50th FS, 14th FG, wa not as fortunate. On 1 August 16 Lightnings of the 50th FS left Goose Bay, Labrador, led by four B-17 , and over Davis Strait a P-38 piloted by

Lt Goodrich simply disappeared. No one saw

him go, though all aircraft were in visual contact with one another above a 7,000ft

overcast, and Goodrich made no distress call

on his radio. He could not have been gone very long when he was missed, and LtJ. W. Williams, commanding the lead B-17, handed over his

P-38s to another Fortress and turned back for

a search below the overcast. The sea was

rough beneath the 600ft ceiling, and visibility poor. Williams gave up after 45 minutes, and

re umed hi course. Lightnings of the 94th, 71st and Headquarters Squadrons of the 1st FG arrived

in England between 9 July

27th FS, which had reached Iceland on 6July,

remained there until 28 August, adding some muscle to the defence duties of the 33rds

P-40s.

During this time, Lt Elza E. Shahan of the 27th shared with P-40 pilot J. K. Shaffer credit for the first German aircraft destroyed in the European Theatre of Operations (ETa) by the USAAF in World WarlI when they shot down an FW200 Kurier, a four-engined armed reconnaissance plane, off the Icelandic coast on 15 August.

and 25 July. The

14th FG

reached England during the last two weeks in August, permanently leaving behind in Iceland the 50th FS, which relieved the 27th.

This allowed the 27th FS to join its sister units

of the 1st FG in England.

The 1st FG was based at Ibsley, and the 14th FG at Atcham, Shrewsbury. Both groups belonged to the US 8th Air Force, formed in January 1942 for the coming attack on Hitler's Europe. However, even as the

The 48th and 49th FSs of the

Below: Langford Lodge, near Belfast, was a large modification and repair facility operated by Lockheed and the 8th Service Command. P-38F-5 and F-15 are identifiable here. / USAF

43

Above: Delivery of the P- G began in eptember 1942. The G models were fitted
Above: Delivery of the P- G began in eptember 1942. The G models were fitted
Above: Delivery of the P- G began in eptember 1942. The G models were fitted

Above: Delivery of the P- G began in eptember 1942. The G models were fitted with Alii on F-IO series engines (V-1710-51/55) which produced an extra 100hp at 25,oooft. The last 200 P-3 G-10s could carry l,800lb on each underwing pylon.

/ EdwardJablollSki

Left: Newly arrived Lightnings on Queen's Drive in Liverpool being towed to Liverp 01 Airdrome, 9January 1943. / AF

Right: The P-38H series, with Allison F-15 (V-1710- 9/91) engine of 1,425hp each, also received new superchargers and automatic oil temp control. Maximum speed at 25,OOOft was 402mph. / U AF

Lightning groups set about preparing for combat over the Continent, the exigencies of war had decreed that they fight elsewhere. On 8 July Prime Minister Churchill had sent a message to President Roosevelt urging that they proceed with the invasion of North Africa, an operation they had previously discussed. Since the two leaders had already determined that the invasion of Europe was not feasible before the spring of 1944, Roosevelt agreed (after a 10-day delay due to initial opposition from his top Army and Navy commanders, General Marshall and Admiral King), and Operation Torch was scheduled for sometime in the fall. This resulted in establishment of the US 12th Air Force in August 1942, which would necessarily claim the P-38 units available in England. Meanwhile, the P-38 groups engaged in practice sweeps over the Channel with RAF squadrons, practiced gunnery, simulated attacks on bomber formations, received instruction from British operations and intelligence officers, and familiarised themselves with British radio procedures. Two-plane elements of the 1st FG were scrambled a number of times to intercept reported enemy aircraft; but the pilots were never told whether these were practice drills or for real. No enemy aircraft were sighted. The 94th FS lost.- Lt Charles Oakley to an operational accident near Thirsk. During October, the 14th FG flew several bomber escort missions to the French Coast, but encountered no enemy aircraft. Then, on 24 October, the groups were alerted for movement. Their destination was, of course, unknown to them. Four days later, the ground echelons boarded ships at Liverpool. and the aircraft were flown to Land's End on England's southernmost tip. From there, they would fly to Gibraltar on 8 November the day Operation Torch wa scheduled to begin. Many would not return.

NorthAfrica When Operation Torch wa launched on 8 November 1942 with Allied landings in North-west

NorthAfrica

When Operation Torch wa launched on 8 November 1942 with Allied landings in North-west Africa,
When Operation Torch wa launched on
8 November 1942 with Allied landings in
North-west Africa, British and
Commonwealth force had been fighting the
Germans and Italians in a see-saw war in
North-ea t Africa for more than two years.
However, just five days earlier, General
Bernard Montgomery' British 8th Army had
broken out of its defen ive position at
EI Alamein in Egypt, and was pursuing Field
Marshal Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps
westward into Libya. Therefore, Torch
provided the western jaw of a giant pmcer,
1,700 mile aero, within which enemy
forces in North Africa could be destroyed.
~editerranean,and the key to that was Allied
aupower.
General Montgomery, who understood the
proper u e of airpower, could press hi
advantage confident that Air Marshal
Tedder' De ert Air Force (which included
Below: Lightnings of the 4 th FS,
14th FG, arrived in Algeria on
11 November 1942, three day
after
the invasion of North Africa by
Allied forces under Eisenh wer.
;
AF
the
newly - formed
US
9th
Air
Force) controlled
the
air
over North-east
The
key
to
ultimate victory in North
Africa would be the succes ful interdiction of
Africa.
However, General Dwight Eisenhower, in
overall command of Torch, had yet to learn
the proper use of tactical airpower. He soon
had General Jimmy Doolittle's US 12th Air
Force pread thinly over 600 miles of North-
west Africa to serve, piecemeal, the presumed
need of his ground commanders. The two
P-38 groups, particularly the 14th FG, would
pay heavily for this wasteful concept.
the enemy's supply lines acros the
~bov~: A 4 th
FS P~3 F Mickey A wn by
Doc Watson at GIbraltar taging field for
Operation Torch.; Roger Freemoll

Above: Welcoming committee; the Germans wasted no time mounting their first bombing raid against the newly arrived P-38 at Maison Blanche, Algiers, 16 November

1942./ USAF

Top right: Pilots of the 48th FS just after arriving at Youks les Bains, 21 November 1942. Back row,left to right: Lts Yates, Eubank, Sorensen, Tollen, Beimdiek, Ethell, Goebel, Carroll, Bestegen, Schottelkorb, and V. Smith. Front row: Capts Wroten, Bing, Walle, Watson; and Lts Shipman and Ziegler

/ Simpson Historical Research Center, MaxwellAFB

Bottom right: Lightning of the 27th

FS, 1st FG, tuck in clo e to a B-17 over North Africa on long-range escort.

/ Allie Moszyk via EdwardJablonski

t8

Operation Torch proceeded according to plan during the first days (except for behind- the-scene political moves involving the puppet French leaders). Allied forces went ashore at several points around Oran, Algiers, and at Mehedia (Port Lyautey), Safl, and Fedhala around Casablanca in French Morocco. There were some resistance from Vichy French forces, but in the main the French had little inclination to fight, and all threw down their arms by 11 November. On that day, at 13.30hrs, the first Lightning mission flown from African soil was carried

out by pilots of the 48th FS. 14th FG. The P-38 groups, the 1st and 14th, had flown from Land's End to Gibraltar on the day of the invasion, and the 48th's air echelon wa on the field at Tafaraoui on the 11th. The 49th FS arrived on the 18th. The 1st FG could put a

few P-38s in the air from North Africa on the 20th. By then, the ground support people had found their air echelons, and the pilots were no longer required to fuel and arm their own machines. The 48th FS moved to Maison Blanche on the 16th, and, that night, the Luftwaffe bombed and strafed the field, the Germans, along with some Italian troops, having arrived at EI Aouina Airfield near Tunis just one day after the invasion. The hangars at Maison Blanche were severely damaged, and 18 aircraft received major damage, including seven P-38s. On 18 November, the 48th FS flew its first ofEcial combat mission after gathering 12

Lightnings from the ruin visited upon the squadron two nights before. This was an escort of20 C-47s to Constantine. On 20 November the Germans returned to Maison Blanche with 20 Ju87s and Ju88s, destroying an entire British photo-recce unit, four Spitfires (there were two US fighter groups in the 12th AF equipped with Spitfires, the 31st and 52nd), three Beauflghters, a B-17, and two P-38s. Fortunately, the 1st FG (still not combat- ready), had moved to Nouvion earlier that day. The 14th's two quadrons moved the next day.

The 14th's new home wa Youk

les

Bain ,

about 10 miles east of Tabessa in North-east Algeria. The 4,500ft runway at Youks was in

a tiny valley, with foothills rising to 4,oooft

on each side,

end. It was a forward base, so forward in fact

that the only possibility of supply was by way

of the 60th

'Gooney Birds.' Sharing Youks with the 14th was a squadron of Douglas DB-7 light bombers manned by recently liberated French airmen, and some British paratroopers. On 25 November the 94th FS of the 1 t FG also came to Youks, while the 71st FS returned to Maison Blanche for bomber e cort duty. Meanwhile, on the 21st, ix P-38s of the 48th FS tangled with the Luftwaffe for the first time while escorting 12 Fortresses to Tunis. Near the target four Me109s were spotted and a 25-minute running battle ensued. Lt Carl Williams got one Messerschmitt when it attempted to dive

Troop Carrier Group I C-47

and with a deep wash at one

away from him. He quickly overtook the ~nemy.and scored the first Lightning victory m Africa. Lt Ayers was injured when he was forced to crash-land due to battle damage.

The next day, pilots from both squadrons of the 14th FG flew a total of three missions and one intercept. To start the day properly, Capt :Wade Walles, 48th FS CO, led five P-38s m a fighter sweep that accounted for a

locomotive, four tanks, and The se~ond mission of the

reconn~1SSanc~, but Lt Mark Shipham found an Italian twm-engine Breda which he sent crashing to earth. On the third mission Lts

a motorcycle. day was for

S rense.n an~ Tollen hot up a troop train, destroymg It locomotive. Finally, Lt Sorensen and Shipman were standing alert at Youks late in the day when a Ju88 appeared ?ver the field at about 9,000ft. They

enemy and scored hits on One of Shipman's engines

was hit, so he wheeled away, allowing Sorensen to follow the stricken bomber down until it crashed. Three combat missions and an intercept in a day, that was to be the norm for the P-38s in North Africa. Throughout December 1942, one could count on a single hand the number of days the Lightnings failed to fly; and those were days of impossible flying weather. Or, perhaps mor~ properly, those were the days when the bIg fighters simply could not be moved through the mud.

50

mt~rcepted the

theIr f~st pass.

moved through the mud. 50 mt~rcepted the theIr f~st pass. Mud was an enemy with which
moved through the mud. 50 mt~rcepted the theIr f~st pass. Mud was an enemy with which

Mud was an enemy with which Allied planners had not reckoned. Expecting to make unopposed landings in Morocco and Algeria, and to grab the strategic town of Tunis in a quick thrust, British and American forces found them elves frustrated by the Germans' quick reaction, a great airlift of planes, tanks, and men from nearby Sicily, by lack of mobility when the rains came; and by committing their aircraft, a few at a time, to ground support missions and un-coordinated bombing raids, with no priority given to the defeat of German and Italian Air Forces and control of the air over North-west Africa. The P-38s at Youks eventually triumphed over the mud. Lt Ervin Ethell's plane, Tangerine, was wrestled on to a smooth slope of solid rock that rose into the hills adjacent to the field. There wa almost 1,700£t of it. Ethell taxied to the top, swung around and took-off downhill. He circled, then landed uphill. Youks was an all-weather field after all. At least, it was for the airplanes. The men continued to live in the mud. Tents were the highest style of living until empty five-gallon ans were fashioned into an officer's club. od was almost always K-Ration, except for me eggs and mutton bartered from local rabs. The mission assigned to the P-38s at Youks that of air support for the Allied forces in ntral Tunisia, which included the right

flank of the US 1st Armored Division, and the British 78th Division. But this was air support as envisioned by local ground commanders. Mission No 26 was typical, a reconnaissance to the Bizerte area flown by Lts Ethell and Skinner of the 48th FS, and Lts Butler and Evan of the 49th FS. Heading for El Arousa and anticipating heavy flak near Bizerte, the four Lightnings went down to the deck. Then, nosing over a hill by Lake Bizerte, they suddenly saw in the sky ahead a tight formation of 15 or 20 Ju52s, flying about 30ft above the water and escorted by four

Me109s.

The P-38s fell upon the transports between Menzel and Metline. 'It was like flushing a covey of quail,' Ervin Ethell recalls. 'They tried to scatter, but we were on top of them.' Ethell methodically blasted four of the transports from the sky and was working on a fifth when he noticed that Skinner was in trouble with two Me109s. Ethell broke away from the Junkers, closed on the tail of one Messerschmitt and gave it a three-second burst with his cannon and four .50s. The German fighter went down behind a hill trailing smoke. But Skinner also went down. Evans had accounted for a fifth Ju52. Then, separated and low on fuel, the three P-38s dived for the deck and headed home. In addition to reconnaissance and ground attack assignments, the P-38s were much in

Above: The soft, often muddy wasteland at Youks took its toll. Berber tribesmen watch as salvage crew works. / Kenneth M. Sumney

Top left: Living conditions at Youks were on the primitive ide; food was worse. Lightning in background has markings (HV-S) of 27th FS, tationed at Biskra.

I/Inney

/ Kenneth M.

Borrol/l left: Deluxe quarters at Youks shared by Lt Norman Jackson and John Caputo, the latter in entrance. Construction was dirt- filled five-gallon fuel tins.

/

orman W. Jackson

51

Top right: Col Elljot Roosevelt, the Pre idem's son and CO of the 3rd PhG, discusses mis ion with Lt-Col Frank L. Dunn at La Senia. / USAF

&JIIOIIJ right: P-38F-1, bearing Superman insignia, at Youks les Bajns in December 1942. The 'UN' code was for the 94th FS, 1st

FG. / Kenneth M. SlIlIIlIey

Be/ow: An F-4 Lightning o( the 3rd Photographic Reconnaissance Group which arrived at La Serna, Algeria, in mid-December 1942.

/ AF

m r
m
r

r e cort duty.

rhawks, nor the It Ir had the range of the I htnin . h refore, the P-38s were picked

the kind of missions that seemed to ensure

a maximum of enemy opposition. Meanwhile, the lack of replacement pilots and planes further eroded the Lightning groups' effectiveness. Most mission were

flown with six to eight P-38s. Two and four- plane missions were not unu ual· and 16 to 18 Lightnings for bomber e cort (protecting 20

or heavie ) wa a maximum

effort. Then, ju t before Christmas 1942, the Lightning-equipped 82nd FG (95th, 96th, and 97th FS ) arrived in North Africa, along with ome replacement pilots for the 1st and 14th FGs. However, the 82nd was also under strength and, by the middle ofJanuary 1943, when Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt met at Casablanca, the 1st, 14th, and 82nd FGs had a total of but 90 P-38s between them. Normally a single US fighter group would have 10 to 20 more airplanes than that.

to 25 medium

Things could have been worse, had not the 3rd Photographic Reconnaissance Group landed its F-4 Lightnings at La Senia, Algeria a month earlier to take over one of the tough jobs the fighters had been trying to handle.

commanded

The 3rd PhG, by the war' wa

by th~President's on, Co Elliot Ro

evelt.

It is hardly possible to

ay too much in

favour of the unarmed F-4/F-5 group. Their s was a unique mission, composed of approximately equal parts of boredom and danger. And despite the fact that they

received little glory, no Lightning group contributed more to ultimate victory, in Africa and elsewhere. Since they almost always flew alone, their comrade seldom knew the cause when one failed to return. During thi period Lt Virgil Smith, the

theatre'

him elf shot down by an Me109 while on a bomber escort rni sion to Gabes. Two of his squadron mates, Lts Carroll and C. Smith, were lost in the same air battle between 12 Lightnings and five exceedingly good Messerschmitt pilots. In the hard blue above North Africa, the good guys did not always wm.

fir t American ace (48th FS), was

In the end, they did. They did becau e they learned quickly and well; and because Eisenhower knew he was doing something wrong, and sent to England for General Carl Spaatz to tell him what it was. America has possessed no greater air commander than General Spaatz. A W orId War I fighter pilot, credited with three air victories in France as CO of the 31st Aero Squadron, Spaatz commanded a pursuit group between wars, and went to England in 1942 to run the US 8th AF. He would later become Chief of the USAAF when General Arnold retired, and was the one man most

responsible

today's

independent USAF. When G neral paatz arrived in North Africa, h ed the ituation and then was characteri ti ally bri f and t -the-point in his recommendation to eneral Ei enhower. He said that fighter airplane are poor defensive weapons; that airpower h uld alway be used on the offensive, and that the first

for

creation

of

be used on the offensive, and that the first for creation of 52 mission of a

52

used on the offensive, and that the first for creation of 52 mission of a tactical
used on the offensive, and that the first for creation of 52 mission of a tactical
used on the offensive, and that the first for creation of 52 mission of a tactical
used on the offensive, and that the first for creation of 52 mission of a tactical
used on the offensive, and that the first for creation of 52 mission of a tactical

mission of a tactical air force should be to wi~ air superiority. Then, and only then, should tt turn its attention to the supplementary roles required of it by an advancing ground force. General Eisenhower gave Spaatz a free hand to do whatever was necessary. That soon resulted in creation of the North-west African Air Forces (N,AAF), headed by General Spaatz, and wi~h a unifle.d chain of command made up entirely of au officers. In late February 1943, NAAF w~ integrated into Air .Chief M. arshal Tedd~r s

which

included, in North-east Africa, the Commonwealth Desert Air Forces and the US 9th AF under Air Vice-Marshal Coningham. Coningham's planes were bosses of the air over Libya as Montgomery pursued

. all Allied air in North Afnca

structured .and efficiently

Mediterranean

Atr

Command,

Rommel into Tunisia.

So

at last

was 'properiy

directed. Time, God, and a httle luck should take care of all else. Time was a commodity in short supply within the USAAF Training Command, and replacement pilots for t~e decimated P-38 groups in North-west Afnca often needed to rely on the other two above-mentioned factors. A too typical product of those desperate days was Lt Norman W. Jackson, ~ne of t.he first 26 replacement pilots that arnved wtth the 82nd FG just before Christmas 1942: . 'I had only 30 hours in P-38s, and no aenal gunnery. Graduating from a bomber advanced school and being stationed at Olympia, Washington, for .three mont~s of fog and rain, had left something to he demed.

being stationed at Olympia, Washington, for .three m o n t ~ s of fog and

'Arriving in North Africa, we were put in combat with the 14th FG at a time when they were being terribly mauled by ground fire, as well as superior numbers of experienced German pilots. 'By the time I had 30 hour' combat, I had bailed out, crash-landed in the desert, returned home on one engine, and brought

another P-38 home so shot up

junked. 'Being inept at gunnery wa fru trating, but I finally managed two confirmed victories, one Fw190 head-on, holding the red dot on hi yellow pinner almost too long

and flying through the debri ; and the other

that it was

an Me109 from the rear, closing 0

fa t that

my prop

almost chewed him

up

before I

broke off

'

Jackson's experiences not only under core his own determination in the face of his everal handicap, but remind u again that the big fighter took pretty good care of it pilot. It certainly took care of Capt Herbert Johnson of the 48th FS one day. While on a fighter sweep near Tripoli with even other P-38s, Johnson spotted four enemy staff cars and four trucks between the border and

Tuni ia. The

Lightning had already hot up orne other targets, but the cars looked important. Herb Johnson went in with all five guns firing and one car exploded; but his concentration on the target had crossed that fine line into

Medenine in South-east

had crossed that fine line into Medenine in South-east Above: Engine change. The national insignia was

Above: Engine change. The national insignia was outlined in red on 4 th FS machines while yellow outline was used by most others. I Ervin EtlJell

Above centre: Lt William J. Hoelle of the 49th FS surveys damage to his

p- Maximum Goose incurred when

he struck a telephone pole during a traflllg run, 31 December 1942.

IU AF

Above left: General Carl A. 'Tooey' Spaatz (left), and Lt-Col Ralph Garman, CO of the 1st FG.

I Kenneth M.

umney

&ttO/ll left: Lt Virgil H.

F

vIctories during his fmt month in

combat over North Africa. I USAF

mith, 4 th

,14th FG, scored fl ve aerial

R;~JJt:The airfield at Bi kra, Algeria was home to the 301st Bomb Group, the 1st FG, and HQ for the 12th Bomber Command in January 1943. I U AF

kra, Algeria was home to the 301st Bomb Group, the 1st FG, and HQ for the

Right; Lt Ervin C. Ethell of the 14th FG had four confirmed victorie and a probable in a single acti n near Bizerte on 28 November 1942.

I Emili Ethell

Far right; Flak-damaged Lightn1l1g of the 48th FS (ES) apparently has national insignia outlined in red. Red photographs darker than blue on some old films. I En'in Ethell

Belo[/!; Thi P-38F-15 of the 94th FS. 1 t FG. struck a pole while strafing, but returned to base.

I Kelllleth M.

II//tlley

Capt Johnson

ground. Lt Ervin Ethell, flying with John on, saw the horrendous cloud of dust and

~~ediately~etardedpower to circle and see If hIs companion had, by chance, urvived the era h. Then Ethell tared in di belief as

~ohn.son's P-38,

IS tail booms a kew came staggering out of the du t still flying. Nur ing hi peed carefully, Johnson actually coaxed hi flying

the

fixation,

and

flew

into

minus one propeller and with

wreck to almost 8,OOOft to clear the mountains between him and Youks Ie Baine. There, he landed wheel -up and walked away unhurt.

must have looked to

Capt Johnson that day, it wasn't much of a place to return to. In addition to the poor food and primitive life tyle, Youks was periodically bombed and strafed by Ju88s; and. on 9January 1943, following a partlcularly heavy raid by the Luftwaffe, the 14th FG moved to Berteaux, about five mile

A

good as Youk

14th FG moved to Berteaux, about five mile A good as Youk east of Telergma. The

east of Telergma. The 1st FG was at Biskra, working with Bomber Command, and the 82nd FG would not have all its people together, and enough airplanes, to begin effective operations from Telergma until early February. Between 9January and 28January, the 14th FG flew 23 missions (232 sorties) in response to 12th Fighter Command directives. On 23January Maj Wade Walles led 16 Lightnings on a strafmg mission to Gabes and Ben Gardine. Just short of Mendenine, the flight entered an overcast and broke out over the Luftwaffe fIeld at Ben Gardine. The enemy was caught by surprise. There were a number of aircraft on the field, some in the landing pattern, and some taking-off. The P-38s bounced the planes that were airborne, about 20 in number. Lt Yates made a pass only to fInd an Me109 on his tail, though it went down almost at once under the guns of Capt Ralph Watson. Other German fighters were hit, but there was no time to watch them trike the ground. In addition to the low-altitude dogfight, ground fire was intense. Lt Schottelkorb was seen to crash in flames. When the P-38s broke

Riglrt: Maj-GenJames Doolittle pins the Di tinguished Flying Cross on Maj Wade C. W~les, CO

Riglrt: Maj-GenJames Doolittle pins

the Di tinguished Flying Cross on

Maj Wade C. W~les, CO of the 4 th FS, February 1943. / U AF

Below: Ubiquitous entertainer Bob Hope was in North Africa in 1943 posing with P-38 pilots (left to right) Lts George Richards,John Meidinger, A. G. Barber. and RichardJennings of the 14th FG.

/USAF

For riglrt, top: A 94th FS Lightning

at Biskra. Ace, Daisy, Eunice, and Dick are among the names painted

on this one. / Kennetlr M.

umney

For riglrt, bottom: Lightnings of the 49th F ,14th FG, approach Tunis on an armed reconnai sance

mi ion. / Ervin C. Etlrell

off the 3O-minute melee, low on fuel and ammunition, only 10 of them left the area. Of the six missing pilots, Lt Mark Shipman would be the only one to make it back.

S~pm~ crash-landed his badly damaged LIghtmng near Gafsa; was stripped of his belongings, except for a pair of pants, by local Arabs, and then proceeded to walk the 250 miles back to Berteaux, at one point in his journey passing through an Italian camp as ifhe belonged there. On 28 January 1943 the 14th FG was taken out of combat. Of the original 54 pilots who participated in Operation Torch, 32 had been lost, 23 in aerial combat. In exchange, the 14th was credited with 62 enemy aircraft de troyed, seven pro babIes, and 17 damaged, a proud record indeed when one considers that aerial combat was largely a by-product

of the 14th's assigned

North-west

Africa. With the departure of the 14th FG, there would be but two Lightning groups to fight in North-west Africa. The skeletonised 82nd FG had flown a few missions during January 1943 and, bolstered by the planes and replacement pilots left behind by the 14th, the

82nd was at least as strong as the group it

role

in

the 82nd was at least as strong as the group it role in - replaced. The

-

replaced. The 1st FG was moved

to

Chateaudun-du-Rhumel on 28 January

to

continue its service to Bomber Command. On the 30th, 16 Lighmings of the 82nd's

96th squadron escorted B-25 Mitchells to EI Aouinet, and in a running battle with Me109s, from Gabes to Chott Djerid, four P-38s were lost and six of the enemy went down. Most of these pilots were recently commissioned staff sergeant pilots, including Lt William J. Sloan credited with his first

victory

become the 82nd FG's ranking ace with 12 official victories. Meanwhile, the British 8th Army had chased Rommel all the way to Tunisia. By mid-February, the Afrika Korps linked up with the German and Italian forces at Medenine, and Rommel assumed overall command of the Axis forces in Tunisia. He established a strong defensive position on his eastern flank, known as the Mareth Line, to halt the Briti h 8th Army, and then boldly attacked Ei enhower's force to the west through the Kas erine Pass. This attack, intended to overrun Allied airfields and capture badly-needed fuel for German Panzer unit, was turned back after eight days of heavy fighting. Every Allied airplane that could fly was committed to the battle, and even the B-17s were used in a tactical role at

low altitudes. Rommel, having found no weakness on his

ent his Panzers in a series of

four attacks against the British 8th Army on

59

this

day.

Sloan

would

go

on

to

western flank,

Top right: Lt Mark Shipman, centre, upon his return to Berteaux after a 25G-::mile walk through enemy temtory. At one point in his journey he strode boldly through an Italjan encampment.

/ Ervin C. Ethell

Right: A 48th FS Lightning, P-38G-3 (one of only 12 built), at Youks les Bams. / Ervin C. Ethell

BeIOlll: Vi ion obscured by dust, two P-38 pilots of the 1st FG collided during take-ofT at Biskra; January 1943. / USAF

FG collided during take-ofT at Biskra; January 1943. / USAF 6 March. His losses were heavy,
FG collided during take-ofT at Biskra; January 1943. / USAF 6 March. His losses were heavy,

6 March. His losses were heavy, and he gained nothing. Two weeks later, the British out-flanked the 20-mile-wide Mareth Line, forcing Rommel to retreat northward towards Tunis. Then on 7 April elements of the British 8th Army met Eisenhower's forces in North- central Tunisia. The two armies, that had started 1,700miles apart, had closed the pincer. Rommel was surrounded and backed against the sea. But there was still a lot of fight left in the Desert Fox; exactly how much, would depend upon his aerial supply lines from Sicily and Italy. Allied intelligence sources soon reported that more than 500 air transports, Ju52s, SM82s, and Me323s, were ba ed in Italy and Sicily, and that two daily runs were made across the narrow Sicilian Straits with strong fighter escort. The flights originated at Naples, staged through Sicily, and usually terminated at Sidi Ahmed or El Aouina. (We would later learn that during the four months from December to the end of March, the Germans airlifted more than 40,000 men and 14,000 tons of supplies to Africa.) This great enemy airlift spawned Operation Flax, a coordinated Allied air offensive directed against the German transports and their bases. Operation Flax began on 5' April 1943, with the 1st FG making an early morning weep of the Mediterranean north of the Cape Bone-Bizerte area, while the 95th FS of the 82nd FG escorted Mitchells to Bo Rimzo

enemy shipping in the Sicilian Straits north of Tunis. The P-40 units (there were five US Warhawk groups, along with seven RAF, RAAF, and SAAF Kittyhawk squadrons in

North Africa) were given additional sweep and terminal attack missions. B-17s, escorted by the 31st FGs Spitfires, bombed the airfields at Sidi Ahmed and El Aouina. The action began early, at 06.30hrs, when the 26 Lightnings from the 1st FG found 50 to 75 Ju52s and their fighter escorts north-east of Cape Bone. Attacking in pairs, with the advantage of altitude, the P-38s destroyed 11 of the Junkers transports, three Me109s, an Fw187, and two Ju87 Stukas. Two P-38s were lost. Two hours later, the 20 Lightrlings of the 96th FS, with a similar number of Mitchells in tow, discovered another enemy air convoy low above the Mediterranean in the same

area. There were 40 to

escort of four Ju87s, 10 Me109s, six MellOs an

Me210, and an Fw190. The P-38s shared

seven Ju52s with the Mitchells, then fought the Messerschrnitts all the way to Cape Serrat, downing three Me109s, one MellO, the Me210, and three Ju87s. Four Lightrlings went down in this running battle. On the 10th, the 27th Squadron 1st FG flew top cover while the 71st Squadron ranged down to 100ft off the water to fmd the low- flying enemy transports over the Sicilian Straits. Again, at 06.30hrs near Cape Bone, the Lightnings came upon their quarry; 50 Ju52s, escorted by 15 Macchi C200s and Fw190s. This time, the P-38s shot down

70 Ju52s, with a mixed

Airfield

in Sicily, and the 95th FS took

28

of the enemy and lost none of their

another

gaggle of Mitchells to look for

own.

Below: A 48th FS Lightning is serviced at Youks les Bains as C-47 supply planes arrived with mail, ammunition and food. / Ervill C.

Ethell

61

South-West Pacific1942-1943

Top right: P-38Fs. / Lockheed Aircraft Corporatioll

Bottom right: P-322 (Lightning Mk1 USAAF trainer./ USAF

Overleaf P-38M Night Lightning.

/USAF

Below: Slightly over 1,400 photo- reconnaissance Lightnings were produced. The 6rst 500, built at Lockheed and designated F-4 to F-5B, employed airframes and engines of the P-38E to P-38J-10. The rest came from the Dallas Modification Center as re-worked J and L models. The F-5 above used P-38H-1 airframe./ Guy Watson

Someone long ago observed that victory in war depends less upon the brilliance of a nation's leaders than upon the blunders of the enemy. Defeat is largely self-administered. A case in point is the Japanese attack on the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Nothing America's leaders could have said or done would have so united the country in a fierce determination to fight. A day before, the US Congress would have rejected war. A day after, few Americans would settle for less than the absolute, unconditional surrender of Japan and her . Axis partners. The Japanese had made a blunder of monstrous proportions. Japan's folly would not be apparent for a while because the United States was unprepared for war. For six months, the Nipponese would exult in one victory after another as they moved swiftly southward against the Philippines, Malaya, and Netherland's Indies. By the time the Philippines fell to the Japanese in early May 1942, the enemy also controlled Burma, Thailand, French Indochina, the Malay Archipelago, and farther to the east had secured strong lodgments on the islands of

New Guinea, New Britain, and in the Solomons, flanking the approaches to Australia and New Zealand from the United States. Into this uncertain arena came the Lightning, a total of four of them, on 7 April 1942. These machines were F-4s, photo- reconnaissance versions of the P-38E. They were assigned to the 8th Photographic Squadron (which had no parent group) of the 5th Air Force, commanded by Maj Karl Polifka, and originally formed in Melbourne, Australia. The 8th PhS was operational by mid-July, flying from Laloki and Port Moresby, New Guinea, just across the

Owen

the

Japanese. The Battle of the Coral Sea in May had saved Port Moresby from invasion; and the Battle of Midway in June had reduced the enemy's aircraft carrier strength to the same level as America's (six each). These two battles had established the aircraft carrier as the new master of the seas. Therefore, in view of the vast distances encompassed by Japan's newly-won oceanic empire, and America's

Stanley

Mountains

from

Below: Lightnings of the 14th FG 'beat Morocco, mid-1943. Berteaux, up' the field at /

Below: Lightnings of the 14th FG

'beat

Morocco, mid-1943.

Berteaux,

up'

the

field

at

/ J,J'a5Itin~ton Narion.ll Record, Celller

The 82nd FG was up at 10.45hrs with 27 Lightnings escorting Mitchells on another

sweep of the sea. At 12.40hrs they encountered 30 enemy transports with tWo

MellOs, three Ju88s, and two Ju87s, 10 miles north of Cape Bone heading for Tunis. Eleven P-38s stayed with the Mitchells while

the others attacked, shooting down 10 Ju52s,

a Ju88, and an MellO. Lt W. L. Riddle, after getting a transport, ran upon the 110 so fast that he cut off its tail with his props, downing both himself and the enemv. Meanwhile, 15 Mel09s joined the battle, ~nd one of them was shot down before the P-38s, Iowan ammunition, dived for home. Lt Riddle was their only loss. On the following day, the 82nd was low over the sea again with 19 Lightnings from the 95th FS, and 20 from the 96th FS. The 95th flew towards Sicily and met a formation of 20 enemy transports just above the water north of La Goulette with a cover of four Mell0s and four or more Ju88s at 2.000ft along with seven or more Me109s somewhat higher. The P-38s got all of the transports on this occasion, including one that was believed to be a Ju252, and also shot down seven of the e corting fighters. Three Lightning~ were lost, one of which, flown by Lt Grinnan,

collided with aJu52. In the meantime, the 96th FS was mista~enly directed, and four of its four-plane elements missed the area where the action was. The remaining four aircraft, however discovered 25 to 30 Ju52s flying back to Sicily, 10 miles south of Maratina. The offtcial report omits mention of fighter cover,

but there: ~~tIi

38 went down m mlr.ifl~i

unarmedJuS2s.

We should mention ~t

participated

very effi

.

18 April,

47

Warbawlcs

staged the 'Palm Sunday

58 Ju52s, 14 Me202s, and

shot down for the loss of six Warbawks :lrld one' Spitfire. (Contrary to some off-the-cuif assessments in the past he Waro- hawk/Kittyhawk was more than a match for the Me109G below 15,000ft.) The success of Flax, predicated upon Allied counn-ol of the air over North Africa from . mid March onward, wrote the final pronouncement for the Axis powers there. On 13 May 270,000 German and Italian soldiers. trapped on Tunisia's north coast and denied the means to make war, surrendered at last. Field Marshal Rommel left North Africa

shortly before the end. and would plague the Allies in Italy a bit later. The 14th FG, at full strength with a new squadron added (37th FS). possessing 105

pilots

Telergma just before the enemy capirulated.

This pioneer Lightning group would return to the thick of things in Ital y. The fighting 82nd would be there too, along with the 1st FG. The 82nd lost 64

Lightnings to down 199 enemy aircraft. plus

39 probables and 47 damaged since entering

combat the previous December. But it was offered no respite. Pantelleria and Sicily were next, then the invasion of Italy .

~. \8,

ur .Me1~

S~lt:J

and

90

new

P-38G~. rerurned to

Pantelleria and Sicily were next, then the invasion of Italy . ~. \8, ur .Me1~ S~lt:J
Pantelleria and Sicily were next, then the invasion of Italy . ~. \8, ur .Me1~ S~lt:J
Pantelleria and Sicily were next, then the invasion of Italy . ~. \8, ur .Me1~ S~lt:J
capacity to far out-strip Japan in building and manning new carriers, it was clear that

capacity to far out-strip Japan in building and manning new carriers, it was clear that the enemy could not prevent the American occupation and build-up of forces on 'one damned i~land after another' across the South-west Pacific. These bases would insure the security of Australia and New Zeahnd, and provide the stepping stones to re-take the Philippines and, ultimately, strike at Japan herself. Meanwhile, the Japanese must be dislodged

and on 7 July 1942

from some of these islands,

the US Joint Chiefs directed that Admiral Nimitz, commanding the Pacific Ocean Areas (North, Central, and South PacifiC), begin a series of operations in the Solomons, advancing on the Japanese stronghold of Rabaul on New Britain Island in the Bismark Archipelago. Concurrently, General MacArthur, commanding the South-west Pacific Area, would move his Australian and American forces up the northern coast of

New Guinea. A stubborn enemy, however, would render these twin thrusts both costly and time- consummg.

Far l~(r: An F-SB-1 with a P-38J-S behind.

/ Locklreed Aircraft Corporation

BelolII/eft: P-38G-10. / USAF

Left: Dean of Lightning recce pilots was Karl Polifka, who took the 8th PhS to the SW PacifiC in April 1942, later served in Italy. / USAF

BelolII: Lightnings arrive in New Caledonia, November 1942, for the 339th FS on Guadalcanal. / USAF

39th's Lightnings each took a 500lb bomb to the Japanese base at Lae. Faurot missed
39th's Lightnings each took a 500lb bomb to the Japanese base at Lae. Faurot missed

39th's Lightnings each took a 500lb bomb to the Japanese base at Lae. Faurot missed his target and his bomb exploded in the water directly ahead of a Zero that was taking off to intercept the P-38s. The Zero struck the huge column of water and crashed. Although the first Lightnings with guns arrived in Brisbane in August 1942, to form the 39th FS of the 35th FG, the 39th was not operational until mid November because most of its P-38F-ls, 30 machines in all, had leaking inter-coolers, missing ammunition feeds, faulty inverters, and poorly-sealed fuel tanks. When all these problems were solved, the 39th moved to Laloki, Port Moresby's 14- mile Drome, with Capt George Prentice commanding. In the meantime, the 339th FS of the 347th FG, on Henderson Field, Guadalcanal (in the Solomons, 850 miles east of Port Moresby) began receiving P-38s which it Aew together with its P-39s. The 339th flew its first P-38 mission· on 18 November, 'scarting five B-17s of the 11th BG on an attack against enemy shipping. The 39th FS had.its first big fight with the Japanese on 27 December when it scrambled 12 Lightnings to intercept 12 'Zekes', along

with 12 'Vals' (Aichi D3Al-l, Type 99 dive bomber), escorted by 31 'Oscars' (Nakajima Ki-43, Type 1 fighter). The enemy formation appeared headed for the new Allied base at Dobodura. The P-38s, led by Capt Thomas J. Lynch, found the enemy just beyond the mountains and scattered the Oscars by diving through their formation on a firing pass that carried the Lightnings down for a pass at the Vals, and then up again for another crack at the Oscars. By that time, the Zekes were entering the battle, and P-40s from the 9th FS arrived to get a piece of the action. The relatively inexperienced P-38 pilots made mistakes. Some fired prematurely from extreme ranges; several wasted time and opportunity chasing friendly P-40s, and others slowed down and tried to dog-fight the agile Zekes on the enemy's terms. Still, the 39th FS's 12 Lightnings claimed nine victories without loss to themselves. Lt Richard 1. Bong, flying a P-38 (although flying with the Warhawk equipped 9th FS, 49th FG), claimed a Val and a Zeke, his first victories. He would get more. Four days later, the 39th FS destroyed nine more enemy fighters on a bomber support

Abo!Je: A 39th FS Lightning at Port Moresby, early in 1943.

/ Steve Birdsall !Jia BTllce Hoy

67

In

the

what

meantime,

and

the

New

Maj

Polifka's 8th phS

The

8th's

doing

mapped a large portion of eastern New

Guinea

Lightnings were the only source of hard data

that

MacArthur and Nimitz possessed. Their normal recon route was direct to Rabaul, then back to Port Moresby by way of enemy-

on

Britain.

was

enemy

occupied Lae and Salamaua on New Guinea's northeast coast.

the

Polifka

and

his

'Eight

Balls,'

as

squadron came to be known, regarded weather as a greater threat than the enemy fighters. Their Lightnings could out-run anything the Japanese had; but on the way to Rabaul the F-4s crossed the Equatorial Front and its quick-forming tropical storms. They had many bad moments with these.

The

8th's .possession

of the un~rmed

Lightnings led to some unusual InCldents. Once, Lt Alex Guerry encountered four Rufe floatplanes during' a low level run Angered because he had no guns, Guerry began to make passes at the slower craft, eventually forcing all of them to land. As the last Rufe settled on the water, Guerry dived again and 'swooshed hiI? with my propeller wash' flipping it on to 1tS back. Guerry then phot~graphed the scene to .establish confirmation for his kill. As far as 1S known, it was the only enemy aircraft to be 'swooshed down' in combat. However, Lt Robert Faurot of the 39th FS at Port Moresby 'splashed down' a Zero shortly afterwards. On 24 November the

Right: Admiral Chester Nimitz commanded Central and South Pacific Areas, including the 7th and 13th AFs which drove to meet MacArthur's Southwest Pacific forces, spearheaded by the 5th AF, to regain control of the PaCIfIC and the air above it./ US Navy

Below: Brave photographer got this shot of39th FS P-3Bs returning to Laloki (14-Mile Drome), Port Moresby, New Guinea late in 1942. Lightning at left, No 23, was

. usually piloted by Charles Sullivan.

/ Australian War Memorial

New Guinea late in 1942. Lightning at left, No 23, was . usually piloted by Charles
mission to Lae. Lt Ken Sparks got one of them when he sheared-off its right
mission to Lae. Lt Ken Sparks got one of them when he sheared-off its right
mission to Lae. Lt Ken Sparks got one of them when he sheared-off its right
mission to Lae. Lt Ken Sparks got one of them when he sheared-off its right

mission to Lae. Lt Ken Sparks got one of them when he sheared-off its right wing in a collision. Sparks lost two feet of his own right wing, but returned safely to Laloki. On 4 January 1943 the 9th FS, 49th FG, received the first of its Lightnings, and two days later, when the 8th PhS's F-4s reported an enemy convoy headed for the Japanese base at Lae, New Guinea, the 9th's P-38s joined all other Allied airctaft at Port Moresby in the attack. The Lightnings and Warhawks shot down more than 50 enemy aircraft during the three-day battle (Dick Bong added two to his score in his brand new

P-38G).

At this time, General Kenney's 5th AF fighter commander, General Paul 'Squeeze' Wurtsmith, possessed but 330 fighter aircraft, only 80 of which were P-38s. Another 72 were P-4oo (P-39) Airacobras, employed almost exlusively for ground attack missions since they were so clearly inferior to Japanese fighters, while most of the rest were P-40 Warhawks and Kittyhawks. Among the latter were seven Royal New Zealand Air Force squadrons, eight Royal Australian Air Force squadrons, and one Dutch squadron. Since the P-40 had neither the range nor altitude capability of the P-38, General Kenney's on-going pleas for more P-38s is understandable. A lull in the air action followed the early January battles, with enemy aircraft appearing in force only once during February; then, on 1 March the Japanese dispatched eight transports with eight

68

March the Japanese dispatched eight transports with eight 68 destroyers to land 6,000 troops at Lae.
March the Japanese dispatched eight transports with eight 68 destroyers to land 6,000 troops at Lae.

destroyers to land 6,000 troops at Lae. This resulted in the Battle of the Bismark Sea which was primarily fought between th~ Japanese and the 5th Air Force. On the 2nd, in marginal weather, 16 Lightnings of the 9th and 39th FSs were sent with 28 Flying Fortresses to attack the ships in Huon Gulf. One transport was sunk and the P-38s downed two Oscars. On the following day the w~ather was clear, and 28 Lightnings accompamed the B-25s, A20s, and Australian Beaufighters to the Lae area. The P-38s claimed nine enemy fighters destroyed out of 25, but lost Bob Faurot and two others from the 39th FS. Dick Bong got his sixth confirmed victory (which he called an 'Oscar-type Zero' in his report. Many American airmen tended to call all Japanese fighters 'Zeros'), and Lt Harry Brown, who had shot down two Japanese planes over Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, flying a P-36 Hawk, was credited with another. ~eanwhile, the Beaufighters, A-20s and MItchells, skip-bombing and strafing, sent two destroyers and three transports to the bottom. PT boats sank the last transport. Of the 16-ship convoy, only four destroyers

Above: Insignia of the 339th FS.

'{('/I I~fr: Walter Beane, Australian Illtelligence officer, talks with pilots of the 39th FS before the P-38F flown by Dick Bong at that time.

/ Charles W. Killg

J.c:fr: Lt Robert Faurot, 39th FS, J5th FG, who 'sunk' an enemy fighter plane to make the first P-38 kJll in the SW Pacific.

/ IIrrall L. 'jack'JOlles

/~(~IIt: A 9th FS Lightning near Port Moresby, 8 March 1943. / BTllce Hoy

Pacific. / IIrrall L. 'jack'JOlles /~(~IIt: A 9th FS Lightning near Port Moresby, 8 March 1943.

Above: Lightning of the 9th FS, 49th FG, at Dobodura. The 9th wa equipped with P-38s in January

1943. I Alistralian War Memorial

Right: US airmen in the SW Pacific dropped surrender invitations over enemy hold-outs without noticeable

results. I Richard Bracey

Far right, top: In January 1943 the

17th Ph

was operating from

Cactus Strip on GuadalcanaJ. The F-SA-1 above, sin 42-12670. was finally recired at Biak in August 1945 after 200 missions and 1,019 hours' Aying time.

I Dr Richard Blims

Far riglrt, bottom: Camera control of

recce Lightning. Diving

limits were affixed to comrol

column. I

peed

AF

survived, rescuing about 2,700 enemy soldier and returning them to Rabaul. It wa not a large battle by World War II standard, but it was a significant one. Taken together with the final victory on Guadalcanal the previou November, it greatly facilitated American trategy in the Pacific. In this trategy the two line of advance, the one, under Nimitz, aero the Central Pacific via the Gilbert, Mar hall, Marianas, Carolines, and Palaus toward tbe Philippines; and the other, under MacArthur, in the South-west Pacific via the north coast of New Guinea to the Vogelkop and thence to the southern Philippines, were mutually supporting, and forced Japan to spread her defence forces thinly, especially, as Allied forces in India gathered for an assault from another quarter. Late in March, the 80th FS of the 8th FG transitioned t~ P-38s and joined the 9th and 39th FSs at Port Moresby. That made three P-38 squadrons in the 5th AF, each from a different group. Then, between 2 and 18 April, Japane e Admiral I oruku Yamamoto' entire carrier air fleet was land-ba ed at Rabaul for Operation I-go, an all-out attempt to regain aIr superiority over eastern New Guinea and the Solomons. These forces made two major raids against Allied bases on New Guinea with as many as 100 aircraft, hitting Port Moresby on the 12th, and Milne Bay on the 14th. The enemy lost 32 bomber and 23 fighters, largely to the P-38s. But the show - down air battle never took place. Operation I-go was abruptly terminated when P-38s of the 347th FG on Guadalcanal ambushed Admiral Yamamoto.

terminated when P-38s of the 347th FG on Guadalcanal ambushed Admiral Yamamoto. Ire.lted C:OtllrtCOtls'" • :
terminated when P-38s of the 347th FG on Guadalcanal ambushed Admiral Yamamoto. Ire.lted C:OtllrtCOtls'" • :
terminated when P-38s of the 347th FG on Guadalcanal ambushed Admiral Yamamoto. Ire.lted C:OtllrtCOtls'" • :

Ire.lted C:OtllrtCOtls'"

terminated when P-38s of the 347th FG on Guadalcanal ambushed Admiral Yamamoto. Ire.lted C:OtllrtCOtls'" • :
terminated when P-38s of the 347th FG on Guadalcanal ambushed Admiral Yamamoto. Ire.lted C:OtllrtCOtls'" • :
terminated when P-38s of the 347th FG on Guadalcanal ambushed Admiral Yamamoto. Ire.lted C:OtllrtCOtls'" • :
• :
:

Above: On 5 April 1943 lay Tice's P-38 suffered a collapsed nose wheel trut in soft ground at Dobodura, New Guinea. Tice would go through

a number of P-38s called Elsie until at last erring down on Japanese soil, as CO of the 49th FG, in August 1945.

/

AF

Right: Personnel of the 475th FG examine one of their new P-38Hs at Townsville, Australia, May 1943. The 475th was the fir t all- Lightning group in the W Pacific,

and one of the hottest fighrer outfit

of

the war. / Frotlk F.

//lith

the hottest fighrer outfit of the war. / Frotlk F. //lith 72 uring the preceding two

72

hottest fighrer outfit of the war. / Frotlk F. //lith 72 uring the preceding two weeks,

uring the preceding two weeks, the 347th FG (339th and 70th FS ; still the only I -3 in the Solomon) had also taken its toll of enemy aircraft a they came down the 'slot'

r m Rabaul, a many as 160 Vals and Zero n a ingle raid. However, the 347th's most tgniflcant mi sion was its a ignment to kill

n admiral, the Commander of the Japanese

Ileet, and perhaps his country's most brilliant

tr tegist.

It was pos ible because US Navy ryptographer had broken the enemy's naval de (which earlier provided the key to the merican victory at Midway). Admiral lmitz was reading hi enemy' mail. And ,hen a message was intercepted informing h t Admiral Yamamoto would leave Rabaul ard a 'Betty' (Mitsubishi G4M1 Navy ttack plane) on 18 April for an inspection tp to Ballale, Bougainville, 16 Lightning rc hurriedly serviced for the intercept. wo P-38s aborted the mis ion with

hanical problems, leaving 10 to take care Yamamoto's fighter escort, while four

Lightning would go after the Admiral's plane. Yamamoto left Rabaul preci ely on time in a 70Sth Kokutai Betty accompanied by Admiral Ugaki in a second Betty and e corted by ix Zeros of the 309th Kokutai. At 09.34hr, Doug Canning potted the Japanese formation, dead on course and only one minute from estimated interception:

'Bogeys, eleven o'clock high!' The Lightnings separated, climbing steeply. Lt Be by Holmes momentarily turned away from the attack until he could free his drop tanks, and his wing man, Lt Ray Hine, followed him. That left Capt Thomas Lanphier and Lt Rex Barber to make the initial pas at the Bettys. Lanphier was a mile east of t~e Japanese formation when he saw the Zeros' drop tanks flutter away. The Zero turned into the P-38s and Lanphier flamed one in a head-on pass as Barber followed a Betty to treetop level. Three Zeros were on Barber's tail, but were driven offby Holmes and Hine.

Above: Crew chief Willard Berg

checks the Form One of this 347th FG Lightning from the comfort of

hi

homemade 'beach chair.'

/USAF

73

74

Lanphier had rolled on to his back to look out the top of his canopy for the Bettys, and sa w Barber with two Zeros and the lead Betty 'kimming along the urface of the jungle headed for Kahili.: He dived on the Betty, with two Zeros chasing desperately, and began firing at extreme range. At this point, Holmes and Hine scattered the Zero (actually three, though Lanphier saw but two) closing on Barber, and Barber switched hi attention to the second Betty which was turning out to ea clo e to the surface. Lanphier slowed, coolly concentrating on his gunsight, and sent another long burst into the lead Betty. Flames erupted from its right engine, its right wing tore away, and it crashed into the jungle. Lanphier turned into the Zeros following him, and entered a shallow high-speed climb, out-distancing the enemy fighters. While the remaining Lightnings were busy with additional Zero swarming up from the field at nearby Kahili, Homes and Hine again rescued Barber who was pursuing the second Betty low over the water, raking it with hi guns and cannon, as he him elf wa again bracketed by three Zeros. Holmes carne down with his air speed indicating 425mph

two of the Zero a Hine went

after the third. Holmes' momentum carried him pa t Barbel' to close very fast on the Betty. He eased-in the rudder to frame the enemy in the lighted ring of his gunsight, and fired an unusually long burst into the Betty's right engine. In his eagerness, Holme almost crashed into hi target before diving beneath it with only a few feet to pare above the water. He looked back to see the Betty

and flamed

explode as it struck the surface.

Above: Lightning of the 39th FS ju t prior to their fir t air battle with Japanese fighters on 27 December 1942. No 33 was normally flown by Ken Sparks or Richard Smith. / Bruce Hoy

Left: Maj Frank avage, who succeeded Polifka a commander of the 8th PhS, 'dine informally' from atop fuel drum at Port More by.

/

AF

75

Above: On 16 June 1943 Lt Murray Schubin of the 339th F destroyed fi ve enemy fighters and claimed a sixth as a probable during a 45-minute air battle. / A F

76

It appears the both Barber and Holmes claimed the second Betty, from which Vice Admiral Ugaki miraculously escaped. Capt Lanphier was credited with downing the lead Betty in which Admiral Yamamoto died. Ray Hine did not return from the mission, the only los suffered by the attacking force. Throughout the summer of 1943 the 347th FG's two squadrons continued to meet the enemy with success disproportionate to their dwindling strength. By Augu t, only a few P-38s were left in the Solomons, and the P-40 along with Marine Corsair squadron VMF-124, would necessarily carry much of the fighters' burden until more Lightnings were available to the 13th AF. Actually, 115 new P-38G Models came out of the Eagle Farms Depot at Brisbane in May; but General Kenney got them for service in New Guinea with his 5th AF. Kenney used them to form the 475th FG. He chose Maj George Prentice of the 39th FS as the 475th' commander, and Prentice raided the 39th and 80th FSs for squadron and element leaders. The 475th would consist of the 431st, 432nd,

and 433rd FSs. At long last there would be an all-Lightning group in the PacifiC. The 5th AF also received, a few weeks later, the 348th FG, commanded by Maj Neel E. Kearby, and equipped with P-47 Thunderb It . The reason {; r the 5th AF' udden wealth in fighter airplanes was oon apparent. In June, General MacArthur and Vice Admiral Halsey, Nimitz' commander in the South Pacific, re umed their offensive to encircle Rabaul. By early Augu t Army force under Halsey secured New Georgia, with it important Munda airfield, in the central Solomon; and by 1 November US Marine were on Bouganvil1e, just 300 miles outh- east of Rabaul. MacArthur's force (mo t1y Australian) meanwhile advanced up the north-east coast of New Guinea to occupy Salamaua, Lae, and the inland airfield at Nadzab, about 450 mile south-we t of Rabaul. In each pha e of the e twin campaigns, the Japanese sought un uccessfully to contest Allied air and naval supremacy, losing in

to contest Allied air and naval supremacy, losing in Above: A bootleg in-flight photo of a

Above: A bootleg in-flight photo of a 432nd FS P-38H en route to Wewak, August 1943.

/

c. J. R iemall

Left: On 15 October 1943 Charle MacDonald commandeered this 433rd FS Lightning to lead the 475th FG against a large enemy force approaching Oro Bay. MacDonald shot down two enemy planes. but his P-38 was damaged and he crash-landed at Dobodura.

/ Teddy Hanks

77

those efforts plane and pilots that they could ill afford to spare. The new 475th FG entered combat in mid Augu t 1943 when the 431st and 432nd FS moved up to Twelve-Mile Strip and Ward's Drome at Port Moresby, and the 433rd went to Jackson Drome. On 17 Augu t, the 5th AF began an intensive five-day attack on the Wewak area to knock out enemy air opposition to Allied

landing

Caught by urprise, the Japane e lost more than half their airplanes on the ground to Kenney's bomber on the first day. On succeeding days,··l?-38s of the 9th, 39th, and 80th FS , along with those of the 475th FG, destroyed in air combat most of those that remained. Salamaua fell to Au tralian troops on 13 September, Lae and Nadzab three day later; and by early October the 5th AF wa concentrated at Dobodura in preparation for

there

scheduled

for

4 September.

an all-out assault on Rabaul in concert with General Harmon' 13th AF in the Solomon. The air offen ive against Rabaul began 12 October with 106 Lightning from all 5th AF units e corting 107 Liberators, Mitchells, and Beaufighter over the target area. Throughout the re t of October and into November, the strike continued against the enemy, 100,000 trong, at RabauI. The bomber groups went in turn, but the P-38

went

received Distinguished Unit Citation for their outstanding performance in protecting the bomber while sharing a total of 50 confirmed kill . In the end, no Allied forces were put a hore to take RabauI. Pos e ing control of the air, MacArthur and Hal ey eized trategically located island to encircle the important stronghold, and left it to wither for the lack of upply.

every

time.

The

9th

and

80th FS

to encircle the important stronghold, and left it to wither for the lack of upply. every
to encircle the important stronghold, and left it to wither for the lack of upply. every

80

Far left: One of the out tanding lighter leaders of the Pacific War wa Capt Daniel T. Roberts who It,d the 433rd F until hi death on I) November 1943, at which time he had 15 confIrmed aerial victories.

Dellllis Clen Cooper

l.':ft: Top ace of the 80th F ,with 22 victories, wa Jay T. Robbins, a cool and skilful fighter pilot who talked sparingly. / JollII Slanaway

Below left: Commanding fficer of the 475th FG was Lt- 01 George Prentice, a former 39th F l'llmmander. C/n faintly visible on nose of his Lightning identifies it as

.l P-38H-5. / Dfllnis Clel/ Cooper

Ri~ht: The 39th FS CO Thomas J. Lynch was another with unusual leadership abilities. Lynch was kIlled in March 1944, at which rime he had 20 official vietorie .

AI/slm/ian War Memorial

&Iow: Dick Bong with his 9th F

Lightning just after hi

on 5

2\ st victory

ovember 1943. / Carl BoII,{!

SicilyandItaly

would continue for 20 83
would continue for 20
83

Following the Allied victory in North Africa in May 1943, planning proceeded for the invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky) according to decisions reached by Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt at the January 1943 Casablanca Conference. Neutralisation of the Luftwaffe was, of course, an essential prelude to the invasion, and during June the North-west African Air Forces crippled most of the enemy airfields in Sicily, destroying almost 1,000 planes. By 10July, the day of the inva ion, the remaining enemy aircraft had been moved to bases in Italy, and the ship convoys carrying 160,000 men, the British 8th Army and US 7th Army, discharged their cargoes with little enemy air opposition. During the invasion, the Allied air umbrella extended far into Italy, and by 13July, 12thAF fighter were making themselves at home on Sicilian air£eld. German ground forces, however, held out for

nearly three weeks, then escaped across the Straits of Messina to Italy under cover of darkness. All this prompted the Italian king to force the resignation of Premier Mu olini and begin secret negotiations with the Allies to take Italy out of the war. Although the Italians were virtual prisoners of the 26 German divi ions in their country, Italy's surrender was neverthele s announced by General Eisenhower on 8 September as the US 5th Arm y prepared to torm the beaches at Salerno. Five days earlier, British forces under Montgomery had crossed the Strait of Messina and landed in Southern Italy. These dramatic developments were, however, only a beginning. The Germans' determined stand in Italy, under Field

Top right: 94th FS LtJ. Hagenback on airstrip at Sardinia with his bat- nosed P-38H-5 in October 1943.

/ Bill Lenhart via Ken

"'/Illey

Bottom right: In mid-1943, the us

transferred four F-4 and two F-5As

to the French Groupe de

Reconnaissance 2/33 then ba ed in Tunisia. Later in the war, the French unit received F-5Bs (above).

/USAF

.

Below: In September 1943, the Lightning of the 12th AF began to operate from Sicily under conditions that harkened back to the early days in North Africa. Above, a 94th FS P-38G returns to base. / USAF

Marshal Ke selring,

difficult months and precipitate many great

air battle.

a 94th FS P-38G returns to base. / USAF Marshal Ke selring, difficult months and precipitate
a 94th FS P-38G returns to base. / USAF Marshal Ke selring, difficult months and precipitate
a 94th FS P-38G returns to base. / USAF Marshal Ke selring, difficult months and precipitate
a 94th FS P-38G returns to base. / USAF Marshal Ke selring, difficult months and precipitate

Rig/It: Maj Bill Leverette, CO of the 37th FS, 14th FG, led eight Lightnings against 25 Stukas, with Ju88 escorts, which were attacking British hipping near the Dodecanse I lands on 9 October 1943. Leverette shot down seven of the enemy, and the other P-38 pilots, including Bob Margi on (right), accounted for 10 more.

I Bob Margison

Below: Lt Richard Campbell of the 14th FG would later add one more swastika to the victory symbols on

the nose of Earthqllake McCoolI. The

Italian symbol was for an Mc202.

I USAF

During June, the three P-38 groups, the 1st, 14th and 82nd, were based in Tunisia. Also Lightning-equipped were the veteran 3rd PhG, re-designated Photographic Group Reconnaissance (PhGr), and the French Groupe de Reconnaissance 2/33 which had received four refurbished F-4s and two new

F-5s.

Famed author Antoine de Saint-Exupery, at age 45, was a pilot in 2/33, which was commanded by Maj Rene Gavoille. These

recce units,

constituted the Mediterranean Allied photo Reconnaissance Wing (MAPRW) under the command of Col Karl Polifka (succeeding Col Elliot Roo evelt) who had flown the fIrst Lightning recce missions of the war in the SW Pacific. Saint-Exupery would be one of the many lone recce pilots that failed to return from a mission and whose manner of death was

never known. But the very fact that the recce pilot

had

no guns led them to temptations that other combat pilots would not usually entertain. Before Sardina was taken, Col Frank Dunn dived through a low overcast near Cagliari to fmd himself in the midst of circling enemy aircraft over an Axis airfield. Dunn joined them 'because I didn't want to be conspicuous.' The uncertain enemy pilots merely stared at him. None fired. At last

including RAF 682 Squadron,

Dunn saw his chance to break away and continued over the city. He arrived at the railway station ju t a a train was pulling in. He had orne empty fuel tanks it was time to jettison, so he dropped lower and cut them loose over the train. The tanks struck the roof of the car just back of the locomotive and Dunn saw the engineer bailing out of his cab while passengers tumbled from the train's windows. It was a very satisfying sight. By 13 August the Sicilian operation was going so well that the 12th AF sent 106 Fortre es, escorted by 45 Lightnings, along with 106 Marauders and 66 Mitchells, e corted by 90 Lightnings, to the mar haIling yards at Littoria and Lorenzo near Naples. This involved most of the Lightnings available in the theatre, which were during this period mostly P-38G-10s and G-15s. N ear the target this force was intercepted by 75 enemy fighters, but the P-38s stayed with the bombers so well that only two Marauder were lost. Five enemy fighters were claimed. Up to 17 August, when Operation Husky ended, all three P-38 group carried out extensive fighter sweeps, raiding the enemy's evacuation routes, strafing trains, bombing railway tracks, attacking motor transports, knocking-out radar sites, and destroying

bridges. The 5th Photo Reconnaissance

Group (PRG), equipped with F-5 Lightnings,

the 12th AF at this time as the raids

joined

were concentrated in the Naples-Foggia area. A maximum effort was ordered for the 1st and 82nd FGs on 25 August, directed against the airfields at Foggia; both groups would earn Distinguished Unit Citations for their execution of that mission. Every field at Foggia was to be hit, the 1st FG striking at flC1ds 1, 2, and 4 with 65 Lightnings, while the 82nd FG would attack the rest with as many airplanes as they could muster. The two groups were airborne at 07.06hrs, and approached the target area on a course of

270 degrees, all aircraft hugging the deck.

They achieved total surprise. At 09.25hrs a deadly scythe of Lightnings cut across the broad plain, and was almost gone before there was any answering fire from the ground. In their wake, the P-38s left nearly

200 enemy aircraft destroyed or damaged.

Two P-38s went down. De pite their losses, the German and Italian fighters met the P-38s in large numbers on every raid. On 2 September, just a day before Montgomery cro ed the Strait of Messina into Italy, the 82nd FG sent 74 P-38Gs and five P-38Fs to accompany 72 Mitchells to the Cancellor marshalling yards ju t north of Naples. This mission would result in another

Above left: Picture of a happy ace:

Lt William]. 'Dixie' Sloan of the 82nd FG has just completed hi tour in Italy with 12 victorie , making him the top scorer in the 12th AF. Later, Michael Brezas of the 14th FG, 15th AF, would have a total of 12, and Maj Leverette would have 11. Photo is dated 9 August 1943, and Sloan's machine is a P-38G-10.

INatiollal Archives

Above: Col Troy Keith, CO of the 14th FG, and a principal reason for the group's outstanding record.

I

SAF

85

2015, one Reggiane 2001, one Fw190, and \ n unidentihed fighter destroyed in a ollision.

2015, one Reggiane 2001, one Fw190, and \ n unidentihed fighter destroyed in a ollision. In addition, five Mel09s were listed t probable, and eight a damaged. The price

Germany on 13 October. Then, three days later, Italian pilots flying Macchi C205s flew top cover for the 82nd FG as it dive-bombed enemy hipping in Levka Channel.

'During thi time, a lot of our mis ions were

 

a

high, but all of the Mitchells returned fely. n 9 September 1943, six days after ntgomery landed in extreme outhern

Meanwhile, Italian pilot who remained ympathetic to the Axi cause were incorporated into a German ftghter quadron (IIIJG 77) with their Macchi C205s to form

It ly, the US 5th Army, under General Mark

I Italian Fighter Group. The possibility of

 

lark,

taged an as ault landing on beache

Italian er u Italian, in identical aircraft, thus

o

ar Salerno, 25 miles outh-ea t of Naples.

existed.

he

Germans reacted so violently that the

On 1 November 1943 the US 15th AF was

I

ue on the ground was in doubt for a week,

formed in Italy, with the Foggia airfields as it

while the Luftwaffe struck at the beachhead

principal home. General Doolittle was the

 

ith

up to 100 plane at a time. nee again, the P-38s were called in a the

15th' fir t commander, though General Nathan Twining soon took over when

llies' top guns. The recent air offen ive had reduced P-38 trength in the theatre to less

Doolittle went to England. All of the Lightnings in the threatre were transferred to

than

250 machines, spread among the three

the new 15th AF, the 1st, 14th, and 82nd FGs,

 

ightning groups; but al 0 available were

as well as the 5th photo Recon Group.

two

groups of A-36 Mustangs, one group of

The German ground force had fallen back

U

SpitfIres, and 18 squadrons of RAF

to strong defen ive po itions anchored on

pitflres. It wa barely enough, and every

towering peak around the town of Cassino,

rviceable Allied fighter wa ordered to fly

orne 90 mile outh of Rome. This was the

two

sortie

per day. Escort, strafmg, and

'Winter Line', and the enemy would hold it

b

mbing mi sion were flown in a eemingly odie procession, including another sweep

throughout the winter and into the pring of 1944. jack Lenox of the 49th FS, 14th FG,

)

the Foggia airfield on 18 September that troyed almost 300 enemy airplanes and liders, until 27 September when the Foggia

recalls:

trafing and dive-bombing in support of the

h

ld were occupied by the 8th Army. Three

troops at Anzio. On 22 january 1944 British

J y later, the US 5th Army was in Naples, nd the P-38 group enjoyed a brief respite. With Italy's urrender, about 225 Italian Ircraft were flown to Sicily by their pilot to jom the Allies. They were held out of combat until Italy officially declared war on

and American troop landed at Anzio, 60 mile behind the Winter Line; but the Germans kept them confmed to the beachhead area throughout the winter. They couldn't break-out. It wa all they could do to hold on.

DUC for the 82nd. Lt Tom jones flew one of the Lightnings:

first put up about

70 fighter, Macchi 202s, Reggiane 2001s, and Mel09 . A we approached at about 14,OOOft from the ea we could ee the dust trails

'The Germans and Italian

d

'

made by their take-ofE from several fiel .

,

The confrontation developed into a avage running battle and, jones continue:

'Never before or since have I een so many aircraft in one area in combat. What an air battle! A total of 220 aircraft, of which 145

were fighters!

. 'We were using our escort format~on th.at

consisted

scissoring with four other four-plane elements above and around the B-25s when they hit u .

Everywhere one looked ~ P-38 or .an enemy fighter was in a steep dive or spiral, some smoking, to plunge into the Bay of Naples or the adjacent sea. 'Of cour e, we had to drop our two 165- gallon pylon tank immediaterly, and it wa 350 miles over water back to home base. Talk about ga rationing and leaning-out. They followed us out to almost 100 miles fro~ Naples. Some of us couldn'~ make it:-headed

on the

I got an

Me109, right on the deck, not 100 yards away, cro sing in front of me. The battle had

worked down to just above the urface of the sea

of flight

of four P-38s In trail,

Top left: In June 1944, the shuttle missions to Russia began when Lt Everett Thies Aew his F-5C-1 Lightning into the USSR and back. With Thies is hi crew chief, T/Sgt Daniel Noble. / USAF

Bottom left: Russians come to gape at the F-5 Doc Dash. A month later, General D. C. Strother, 306th Fighter Wing Commander, led 70 15th AF Lightning and 50 Mu tang to Rus ia and back on a grand fighter weep. / AF

Below: Lt Thomas W.

F

on

1944. The 109'

off; the P-38 10 t an engine and suffered a severed tail but returned

to base for a wheels-up landing.

/ Bob Margison

,14th FG, collided almo t head- with an Me109 on 16January

mith, 37th

wing was sheared

for the 31 t American Spltfire north coast of Sicily to refuel

,

The 82nd FG lost

Group

downed

16

10 P-38

Mel09s,

trlP

that day.

five

The

Macchi

north coast of Sicily to refuel , The 82nd FG lost Group downed 16 10 P-38
'Our route to the target area wa from our airfield at Foggia aero s Italy

'Our route to the target area wa from our airfield at Foggia aero s Italy to Naple , out to sea, and up the coast to Anzio. We returned the arne way. But one day we 'ded to take a short-cut home and we ran into very heavy and uncomfortably accurate flak. Lt Paul Wingert got it in b th engines and had to bailout. He had hi problem. on he way down with tangled shroud line and a streaming parachute, but managed to get the canopy opened at a very low altitude. 'Now, Paul didn't ee it, but below wa an American infantry squad that, after day in the mud with nothing but cold ration, was queueing-up for a hot meal. Paul landed at the head of the chow line just as the cook yelled, "Come and get it!" Though a bit shaken Paul looked about him, his face blossomed into a smile, he picked up a mess kit and proceeded to be the first one through the chow line.'

During February. the 15th AF in

8th AF in England began to co-ordinate mn air attack deeper and deeper mto Germany. The ground war in Italy wa bogged down, but the long-legged P-3 s could range well into Europe from Foggia, e pecially, after the

P-38Js beg., arriving in March.

significantly

Ital y and the

The

P-38J

models

were

superior to all previou Lightning. Powered with V-1710-89/91 engines of l,325hp (1,600hp war e~rgency), the J had a maximum speed of 420mph at 25,OOOft and an initial climb-rate, with military load, of

25,OOOft and an initial climb-rate, with military load, of /. II " W l"h,cf'Gracle' Allen h

/. II

"

W l"h,cf'Gracle' Allen

h

Ip 14th fG

Oble Taylor

trl

mto Pat II/ r. r a mis

ion.

I Oliver B. Taylor

Ri~llI: Flag ship of the 14th FG at I'(l~gia.Italy mld-1944. Group CO Taylor taxIS down the p P. Group mblem IS on left engine nacelle. / Ohller B. Taylor

&1011':

cw p-, 1-15 at Mateur.

Tuni la 111 hte h·bru.lf\ 1944, on its

yay to the ht FG.1l F('~~la. Italy.

/ Kumtlll \f

\11111/11)'

la 111 hte h·bru.lf\ 1944, on its yay to the ht FG.1l F('~~la. Italy. / Kumtlll

/

I

la 111 hte h·bru.lf\ 1944, on its yay to the ht FG.1l F('~~la. Italy. / Kumtlll

3,9OOfpm which eroded les than 25 per cent through 25,OOOft. The J was the fIrSt Lightning with adequate cockpit heating, and with circuit breakers to cure it electrical ill .

The P-38J-10 and onward pos e ed

bulletproof windscreens and, beginning with the P-38J-25s, hydraulic aileron boo t and electrically-activated dive brakes were added. Weighing 13,7001b empty, and up to 24,000lb loaded, the e Lightnings had a normal range

of 2,300miles with 1,010gal (US) of fuel.

Here at last, was the Lightning for all eason, and all mission . On 2 April the three P-38 group in Italy

were able to

models against the Luftwaffe. The mi sion called for the largest aerial force yet assembled in the theatre, to bomb the ball- bearing plant and aircraft factory at Steyr, Austria, with 450 heavy bombers. The 82nd FG provided initial e cort for the bombers and was jumped at 10.15hrs by 50 Me109, Fw190s and Macchi 202s which attacked at bomber level, head-on, eager to engage the Lightnings. Another formation of enemy aircraft was stalking at 35,000ft clearly hoping to see the P-38s drawn away from the bombers. But the 82nd stuck to it, and got three Messerschmitts in the bargain. Picking up the bomber at 10.45hr, Thunderbolts of the 325th FG (the famed 'Checkertails,' who had flown W-arhawk in North Africa) flew shotgun for the 'Big Friends' almost to the target, warding off another attack by 21 Me109s. Then, at 11.30hrs, the 1st FG arrived to take over the escort duty and was in turn obliged to deal with 70 enemy fIghters in the target area.

flat,

te t substantially their new J

Above: Lt Herbert B. Hatch point~ to the result~of his battle with Fw190s0n 10)une 1944, in which he shot down f,ve I90s in a single lSo-degree turn. He was, however, the only 71st F pilot to return to base that da y. The battle occurred over Ploesti. / USAF

Left: Lt-Col Ben A. Ma on)r, Deputy Group Commander,

FG, put hi~b mb on the target at Plocsti, strafed Aak batteries,

destroyed two locomotives, and hot down an Mella on that costly 10)une raid. / Ben Mason

2nd

down an Mella on that costly 10)une raid. / Ben Mason 2nd Above: Small World Dept:

Above: Small World Dept: Lt Tom Maloney, an eight-victory ace of the 27th FS, 1st FG, recalled that co- author's father, Ervin Ethell (14th FG),.raught gunnery to Maloney at Lomita AAB. / w. H. Caughlin

Left: General Nathan Twining listens as Lt Richard T. Andrews tells how he landed in enemy territory to pick-up another 82nd FG pil